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Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
24 January 2008 - ERAREN
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="justify">The European Parliament’s interest in the Armenian Question dates back quite some time. When Turkey first applied for full membership to the then European Economic Community in 1987, the Parliament in its resolution entitled “A Political Solution to the Armenian Question” of 18 June 1987 requested that Turkey also recognize these allegations and stated that Turkey’s non-recognition would constitute an obstacle in the way of  full membership.

ît its significance.
With Turkey being granted candidacy status approximatley ten years later, the Armenian genocide allegations were once again taken up by the European Paliament (EP). As a matter of fact, this issue was addressed by all EP resolutions  on Turkey’s progress towards accession save for one. Taking  matters a bit further, in its resolution of 28 September 2005, recognition of the Armenian “genocide” was  made mention of not just an “obstacle” to, but  as a precondition for accession to the EU.

The EP’s stance on this matter was to change as of 2007. Despite all efforts exerted on the part of the Armenian lobby and the Armenian Foreign Minister having delievered a speech at the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, in the EP resolution on Turkey’s progress towards accession of 24 October 2007, no mention is directly made on the “genocide” subject. Relevant in point is how the resolution merely reiterates the EP’S “call upon Turkey to engage in serious and intensive efforts for the resolution of outstanding disputes with all its neighbours…”  On another note, the EP, by way of this resolution “strongly condemns the murders of Hrant Dink, of the Christian priest Andrea Santoro, and of three Christians in Malatya”  and in reference to Armenia “reiterates its expectation that Turkey ends any economic blockade and border closure”. 

The European Parliament’s resolution  on a more effective EU policy for the South Caucasus adopted on 17 January 2008 also makes no direct reference to the genocide allegations. The said resolution calls upon Turkey to engage in “a frank and open discussion on past events” which appears that the said resolution falls in line with Turkey’s official proposal made to (but not accepted by) Armenia that the events of 1915 to be investigated by a joint historical commission. Furthermore, the EP, by way of this resolution “reiterates its call on the Turkish and Armenian Governments to start the process of reconciliation for the present and the past, and calls on the Commission to facilitate this process...and calls on the Commission and Council to address the opening of the Turkish border with Armenia with the authorities of the two countries.” On another note, EP states how it believes that the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway Project (the materialization of which Armenia tried to hinder) “opens the way for a better economic and political integration of that part of the world into European and international eceonmy and that it will contribute to economic and trade development in the region.” However, the resolution also stressed that the said Project “bypasses the existing and fully operative rail line in Armenia”.

By way of the recent resolutions mentioned above, The EP, in contrast to the past did not make direct mention of the Armenian genocide allegations, called upon Turkey  and Armenia to begin a process of reconciliation for the past and present, and upon the Commission and Council to aid in the opening of the border with Armenia and has referred to the  Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway as a beneficial initiative. As such, it appears that the said  resolutions are in line with Turkey’s, and not Armenia’s, positions on these matters.

The reasons behind the EP’s change in attitude are not clear. However, what comes to mind is that the EP may have not desired to add such a sensitive issue as the genocide allegations and problems not directly related to the EU such as Turkish-Armenian relations as an extra burden in the way of Turkey’s accession which has already been greatly constrained as a result of France and Germany openly  coming out against Turkey on this matter.

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