Armenia country brief
Armenia is a land-locked country located in south-western Asia, bordering Georgia to the north, Turkey to the west, Iran and Azerbaijan to the south and east. The country's total land area is roughly 30,000 square kilometres, and its population is estimated at 3.1 million (2011). The capital of Armenia is the city of Yerevan.
Armenia's national day is celebrated on 21 September.
The Republic of Armenia became independent on 23 September 1991 following a national referendum establishing independence from the former USSR. It is a Presidential Republic. The executive branch consists of the President (head of state), the Prime Minister (head of government), and a Council of Ministers, the members of which serve five-year terms.
President Serzh Sargsyan won the February 2008 presidential election with the backing of the conservative Republican Party of Armenia, a party in which he serves as chairman, and took office in April 2008. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan (no relation) also took office at the same time.
The most recent parliamentary elections were held in May 2012. President Sargsyan's ruling Republican Party of Armenia gained an absolute majority. The main opposition party is Prosperous Armenia, led by Armenia's wealthiest man, Gagik Tsarukyan. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) election observer mission stated that the 2012 parliamentary elections were administered in an overall professional and transparent manner prior to election day and that the election day was generally calm and peaceful. However, the OSCE observer mission found organisational problems and undue interference in the process, mostly by party representatives. The OSCE also recommended that deficiencies in the complaints and appeals process were cause for concern.
Following independence, Armenia became a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In February 2003, Armenia achieved full membership of the World Trade Organisation. Armenia is also a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Council of Europe, the Asian Development Bank, the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and NATO's Partnership for Peace. Armenia signed onto the European Union's Eastern Partnership Initiative in May 2009.
Armenia's economy has undergone a profound transformation since independence in the early 1990s. After a difficult period from 1991 to 1993, during which time Armenia fought a war with Azerbaijan and began the transition to a market based economy, the Armenian economy has seen sustained growth supported by ambitious reforms and, importantly, remittances from the global Armenian diaspora. The World Bank notes that these factors have combined to create a market-oriented environment in Armenia that is highly receptive to trade, capital, and technological innovation. The global financial crisis had a major impact on Armenia. Before the crisis, the growth rate had neared 14 per cent. Economic growth has gradually picked up from a low of 2.1 per cent in 2010 to 4.6 per cent in 2011, driven mainly by the mining sector and agro-industries. Agriculture is still the largest employer, with other significant sectors including construction and mining of non-ferrous metals (Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead).
The vast majority of Armenia's energy is produced with fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel for its nuclear power plant located at Metsamor. The plant was built in 1979 and generates 40 per cent of Armenia's electricity. The Armenian Government is planning to decommission the ageing Metsamor plant and build a new nuclear power station in its place. Australian company WorleyParsons won an international tender process in 2009 to provide consulting services for the new nuclear power plant project. In 2009, following completion of a pipeline, Iran began exporting gas to Armenia.
Australia recognised Armenia on 26 December 1991 and established diplomatic relations on 15 January 1992. The two countries celebrated the twentieth anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2012.
Migrants of Armenian ancestry have come to Australia from a number of countries other than Armenia itself, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey and India. Migration to Australia began in the second half of the nineteenth century. The peak period of migration occurred a century later in the 1960s, with numbers growing steadily. Today, the community includes people born in 43 different countries. The 2011 census recorded 16,723 people in Australia who claim Armenian ancestry.
Armenian Foreign Minister Mr Edward Nalbandian visited Australia in August 2012 and the Prime Minister's Special Envoy Dr Russell Trood visited Armenia in June 2012. The then Minister for Human Services, the Hon Mr Joe Hockey MP, visited Armenia in November 2005, and the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP visited in 2006. The then Australian Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, visited Armenia in September 2003. In October 2005, former Armenian Foreign Minister Mr Vartan Oskanian visited Australia.
Australia's Ambassador to Moscow is accredited to Yerevan. There is no Armenian Government representation in Australia.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Two-way trade between Australia and Armenia has so far remained at very modest levels due to Armenia's small size and geographic distance from Australia. In 2011-12 total merchandise trade was worth approximately A$2.7 million. Australian exports were worth A$2.24 million, with civil engineering equipment and parts, butter and hand or machine tools the largest categories. Australia imported mainly cocoa and lime, cement and construction materials from Armenia.
Updated November 2012