29 September 2006

1056) The Armenian Question And The European Parliament

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The European Parliament’s (EP) Turkey report was adopted this Wednesday after long debates and certain amendments.

The main controversy surrounding the draft report broke out over the article providing that Turkish accession to the EU would not be possible unless Turkey recognized the Armenian “genocide”. This section of the draft report was omitted by 320 votes to 282. On the other hand, the report incorporated expressions denoting Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian “genocide” as a mandatory requirement.There is a great discrepancy between these two expressions which, at first glance, appear to have the same meaning. The first conveys how recognition of the Armenian “genocide” is a precondition for EU membership. The second indicates how Turkish recognition of the Armenian “genocide” is a necessity, but that the lack of such recognition can not impede Turkey’s accession to the EU.

Rather vague expressions in the draft report making references to the Pontus and Assyrian genocides were retained. The reporter Eurlings, stated that these expressions did not denote recognizing the genocides in question, but that they aimed at making Turkey probe her past. In the light of how the proposal advanced by Greek and Greek Cypriot parliamentarians requesting Turkish recognition of the Pontus “genocide” was rejected by a large margin, Eurling’s statements should be regarded as being accurate. However, this does not mean this topic will fade into the woodwork. As expressions referring to the Pontus and Assyrian “genocides” were incorporated into the report, addressing this issue in subsequent reports shall be of greater ease.

Why were the statements made at the EP Foreign Affairs Committee denoting the recognition of the Armenian genocide as a precondition for Turkey’s EU membership not adopted by the plenary of the European Parliament?

The differing opinions regarding Turkish accession prevalent among the members of the EP provides for the answer to this question. Conservative circles, in particular the Christian Democrats, oppose Turkey’s membership due to a variety of reasons spanning from it not being a Christian country and not having a European culture to plain racism. On the other hand, the Socialists, Liberals, and Greens, are of the view that, should the necessary requirements be fulfilled, foremost the Copenhagen criteria, Turkey should accede to the EU. It is to be noted that a great majority of the members of this group subscribe to Armenian genocide allegations and have cast votes in the past falling in line with this disposition. However, they do not view the recognition of these allegations as a precondition for Turkey’s EU membership.
When it became apparent that the conservative group was trying to exploit the Armenian “genocide” with the aim of dissuading Turkey from EU membership, the Socialists, Liberals, and Greens intervened to have this article removed from the draft report.

Yet, they did not object to statements requesting Turkey’s recognition of the Armenian “genocide” which were dissociated from the issue of membership.
Turkey has not won, nor has it lost, the ongoing battle in the European Parliament waged over Armenian genocide allegations. Yet, during these times when Turkey’s membership remains a matter of great controversy this can be viewed as an accomplishment.

In the final count, it should be noted that at some time in the future, perhaps next year during the negotiations of the upcoming Progress Report, the Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocide allegations might very well come to the fore once again and engender the same controversies though with a differing scale of vigor.

Omer Engin LUTEM
29 September 2006

Turkey must face up to past, says EU
THE European Parliament voted yesterday to tell Turkey it must "face up to its past'', in the context of the alleged genocide of Armenians during the First World War, if it wanted EU membership.

MEPs meeting in Strasbourg also agreed to warn Ankara that talks on EU membership could be frozen unless it opens its ports to Cypriot ships.

Armenians say that as many as 1.5 million of their ancestors were killed in a campaign by Ottoman Turks. Turkey disputes the figure by 1.2 million, and says a combination of war, disease, famine and ethnic conflict were responsible.

The report "stresses that although the recognition of the Armenian genocide as such is formally not one of the Copenhagen criteria [setting out conditions for EU membership] it is indispensable for a country on the road to membership to come to terms with and recognise its past''.

"Lack of progress'' on Turkey opening its ports would have "serious implications concerning the negotiation process and could even stop it,'' the report said.

The report's author, Camiel Eurlings, a centre-Right Dutch MEP, said the Turkish government was heading "toward a cliff''.

The report was immediately rejected by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who said it was "unacceptable'' for any extra conditions to be attached to Turkey's EU entry.

"You cannot change the rules halfway through the match,'' Mr Erdogan said. "The game has started and the rules are there.''

Earlier this week there was an angry reaction in Turkey to comments from José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, saying that further enlargement of the EU should wait until member states agreed to revive major changes to the internal power structures of the EU, originally contained in the now defunct EU constitution.

The Daily Telegraph (LONDON)
September 28, 2006
David Rennie in Strasbourg


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