Franco-Armenian relations are strengthened by a diaspora of around 500,000 French nationals of Armenian origin in France. The recognition of the 1915 genocide by the law of 29 January 2001 was welcomed as a mark of France’s solidarity with the Armenian people, as was the adoption of a law in December 2011/January 2012 on the penalization of denial of this genocide (rejected by the Constitutional Council in March 2012). A treaty of friendship and cooperation was signed on 12 March 1993. Lastly, our political visibility in Armenia stems from our role as a mediator on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the OSCE Minsk Group.
Our political dialogue involves many visits by representatives of both countries. The Armenian President visits France regularly: he made an official visit from 11 to 14 November 2012, for example, and a working visit on 1 October 2013. The President of the French Republic conducted a State visit to Armenia on 12 and 13 May 2014 and travelled to Yerevan on 24 April 2015 to commemorate the centenary of the Armenian genocide. The Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Désir, also visited Yerevan from 9 to 11 October 2015, where he attended the 31st session of the Ministerial Conference of La Francophonie and met with the Armenian President and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The most recent ministerial visit was that of the Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, Ms Girardin, on 22 and 23 January 2016.
In terms of economic relations, France is the second-largest foreign investor, far behind Russia. Some French companies have branches in Armenia, particularly in the agrifood industry (Pernot Ricard, Carrefour) and the water sector (SAUR, Veolia). Trade is relatively weak, totalling €45 million for the first eleven months of 2015, far behind the other countries of the Caucasus.
Franco-Armenian relations are particularly strong when it comes to cultural and technical cooperation. Since 4 November 1995, France and Armenia have been linked by an intergovernmental agreement on cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. France’s priorities in Armenia are French language teaching and elite training programmes, in particular through the French University in Armenia, which takes in over 900 students each year for courses in law, business and management that lead to a French and Armenian dual degree, in partnership with Lyon III University. France also supports various cultural events such as festivals of cinema, comics and animated films, the Francophonie week and the Fête de la Musique.
There is extensive decentralized cooperation. Around twenty French local governments are involved in twinning schemes and cooperation projects with Armenia, in a wide range of fields (tourism, healthcare, etc.). The first Franco-Armenian conference on decentralized cooperation was held in Yerevan on 7 and 8 October 2010 and the second was held in Valence from 15 to 17 October 2013.