Kevork Hagopjian: “The 4th Congress of European-Armenians was effective in the internal and external senses”

From October 18 to 19, Brussels hosted the 4th Congress of European-Armenians, the participants of which addressed four major topics, including recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the struggle for claims for restitution, the right of the people of Artsakh to free self-determination, the issues related to preservation of the Armenian identity and the relations between Armenia and the European Union.

The “Genocide Recognition and Restitution” roundtable discussion featured speeches by international law expert Vladimir Vardanyan and Director of the Institute for Diaspora and Genocide Studies at Rur University of Bochum Mihran Dabag. The discussion was moderated by member of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Legal Center for Justice and Human Rights Kevork Hagopjian, who gave an interview to Hayern Aysor.

Hayern Aysor: Kevork, is this your first time participating in the Congress of European-Armenians or have you attended the previous congresses as well?

Kevork Hagopjian: This was my first time participating in the congress organized by the Armenian National Committee of Europe. I have had opportunities to participate in other events organized by European-Armenians in the past, but this congress was different from my previous experiences in terms of its format, the diversity of the participants and content.

Hayern Aysor: Kevork, you were the moderator and the youngest participant of the roundtable discussion entitled “Genocide Recognition and Restitution”. What does assuming such a major task mean to you?

Kevork Hagopjian: I was perhaps the youngest of the moderators, but fortunately, the presence and active participation of young Armenians was evident. Mentioning the presence of young people has started to seem offensive. Why do we try to point out that we are providing youth with an opportunity? In reality, such tasks are the minimum duties that young Armenians can assume. The world has changed, and youth are not only observe, listen and obey, but also plan, play a role, take action and manage.

We can observe a couple of brilliant examples of young people in Europe. The newly elected Prime Minister of Austria is only 31 years old; a 21-year-old female was elected during the recent UK parliamentary elections; one of the presidents of France assumed office at the age of 39. In the near future, I hope we can look at the involvement of young professionals in the various sectors of our life as something that is natural and worth mentioning. However, this doesn’t mean that the elder generations shouldn’t share their knowledge and experience with young people. Today, they complement each other. Ignoring one generation will hurt all of us. The important thing is to use the potential of various generations for the benefit of our collective interests.

Hayern Aysor: How would you recap the discussion?

Kevork Hagopjian: The content of the third session of the congress (the importance of the memory of the Genocide within the framework of our claims and as part of the struggle for claims, the phenomenon of the process of restitution) is extremely important. The speeches given during the session and the succeeding in-depth discussions disclosed, to a certain extent, the secret behind the “I Remember and Demand” slogan that was accepted in 2015. The session was an attempt to know what we understand, what we should know and how we should understand the memory of the Genocide and restitution.

If there are people who are concerned about the fact that Armenians in the Diaspora are becoming exhausted, in that process of exhaustion, above everything else, it is our collective memory that is fading away. Consequently, we must not spare any efforts to keep our collective memory alive. In the case of the process of restitution, alongside political and diplomatic activities, the need to adopt a legal, realistic, professional, precautious, coordinated and unified strategy is indisputable.

Hayern Aysor: Kevork, what experience did you gain during the congress?

Kevork Hagopjian: The congress was effective in the internal and external senses. The presence of the state figures of Armenia and Artsakh and representatives of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia and the contacts with the participants were inspiring. The presence of Western Armenians and Eastern Armenians from countries across Europe was quite a good phenomenon and something you won’t see often at such congresses and conferences. In other words, in the internal sense, the congress helped create an effective environment for European-Armenians to share their differing views during discussions.

In the external sense, the congress helped convey clear-cut messages to the political and diplomatic circles in Europe in regard to the potential of European-Armenians to create networks and the existence of solid relations of European-Armenians with Armenia and Artsakh.

The participants of the congress strongly advocated Armenia’s empowerment, enshrinement of the relations of Armenia with European organizations, the restitution for the Armenian Genocide and the resolution of the Artsakh issue and showed the reality of being an influential part in the multicultural ‘mosaic’ of Europe as an organized collectiveness.

Lusine Abrahamyan

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