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THE EU PROGRESS REPORT AND THE ARMENIANS

Ömer Engin LÜTEM, Retired Ambassador
13 November 2006 - ?KSAREN
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The European Commission’s Progress Report regarding Turkey made a few references to Armenia and the Armenians, yet the genocide allegations were not addressed this time round.

The Report stipulates that since the exchange of letters between the Turkish Prime Minister and the Armenian President, ‘there have been no significant developments in relations’ between the two countries. Furthermore, the report indicates that Turkey has not opened its border with Armenia, that this would constitute ‘a step forward in the establishment of good neighbourly relations’, and would ‘be beneficial to both sides, in particular with respect to trade’.

The Report also touches upon the Turkish Court of Cassation having confirmed the six month prison sentence handed down to journalist Hrant Dink, for having insulted “Turkishness”.

The Progress Report issued last year has also dealt with these matters albeit more extensively. By employing the expression ‘the tragic events of 1915’ without any further explanation, the 2005 Report indirectly referred to the genocide allegations.

Due to the limited reference made to issues relating to the Armenians and Armenia, the most recent Progress Report has drawn reactions from the Diaspora Armenians.

Established with the purpose of advocating Armenian views among European Union organizations, The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (the Federation), by way of issuing a press release, has drawn attention to how the euphemistic expression “tragic events” has not been incorporated into the 2006 Progress Report. Furthermore, the press release cites that the recent Report failed to denounce ‘the campaign waged by Turkey both on its own territory and throughout the Union’, that despite having addressed Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, Article 305 ‘which penalizes the affirmation of the Armenian genocide’ has been overlooked, and that ‘the blockade of Armenia has been described by using the dismissive terminology “closed borders”’. It is in point to note that Article 305 of the Code has nothing to do with genocide allegations.

By way of this press release, the Federation has also expressed that it ‘is troubled by the Commission’s failure to fairly and meaningfully address’ the Armenian Question and specifically the problem of denying the Armenian genocide, that the current Report constitutes ‘a setback to the credibility of the Commission’ which recently criticized France due to its law penalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide. Furthermore, the Federation cites that the Commission needs to evaluate the situation prevalent in Turkey without yielding to political pressures. Otherwise, as the Federation maintains, ‘European public opinion will turn against the Commission’s double standards’.

As can be seen, the Commission’s Progress Report on Turkey engendered great disillusionment among the Armenians. Due to this very reason, the Federation, has issued certain meaningless and aggressive statements.

It is essential to accurately interpret why the recent Progress Report has made limited reference to the issues concerning Armenia.  Till this date, ten EU member countries’ parliaments have adopted resolutions recognizing the alleged Armenian genocide. However, as recognition of the Armenian genocide allegations is not a precondition for conducting negotiations with Turkey, the European Commission, has endeavored to pursue a different line of conduct than that followed by these member states parliaments’ and the European Parliament and has refrained from bringing these allegations to the foreground.

Coming to the question as to why the relations between Turkey and Armenia have not been covered extensively in the recent Progress Report, it is possible to conclude that in light of the turbulent relations between Turkey and the EU stemming from the Cyprus question, the Commission has decided to refrain from burdening Turkey with this additional load.

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