Armenian Question at Heart of EU Debates on Turkey

Second 2004 European Parliament report on Turkey evokes discussion on Armenian issues; Socialist Party position misrepresented by several party members

STRASBOURG–On November 15–the Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) of the European Parliament examined the second 2004 parliamentarian report on Turkeys progress towards accession presented by the young Dutch representative Camiel Eurlings.

Before commencing debate–parliamentarians had a chance to review the 483 amendmen’s listed on the brief seven-page report–which notes that Turkey’s accession remains a sensitive issue. The report was criticized by some for its failure to express a clear position on the possibility of starting accession talks with Turkey.

Regarding Armenian issues–the draft of the report states that the Turkish authorities "have missed an opportunity to promote good neighborly relations with Armenia" as a result of their refusal to open the Armenian-Turkish border–and moves on to note that the European Parliament "calls on the Governmen’s of Turkey and Armenia to start a process of reconciliation in order to overcome the tragic experience of the past and requests that the Turkish government reopen its borders with Armenia as soon as possible."

The amendmen’s to the report as well as the debates focused largely on Armenian issues–including recognition of the Armenian genocide–the blockade of Armenia–as well as article 305 of the Turkish Penal Code that penalizes the affirmation of the genocide or dissident opinions on the Cyprus issue.

Amendmen’s explicitly dealing with genocide recognition and the border issue were submitted by parliamentarians representing the Communist–Socialist–Christian-Democrat (EPP)–Liberal and Sovereignist groups–isolating the Greens of Europe as the only major group that unconditionally supports Turkey’s EU bid.

Going against official party positions–several parliamentarians offered amendmen’s that favor Turkey’s position on a variety of Armenian issues. French Socialist MP Michel Rocard led the charge with an amendment that praised "the remarkable work carried out by Turkish historians on the genocide."

"In talks with Mr. Rocard and his associates–we have pointed out that in addition to being blatant lies–their affirmations actively invite the denial of acts of genocide in Europe," declared Hilda Tchoboian–Chairperson of the European Armenian Federation.

A vote on the Eurlings report will be held in the Foreign Affairs Committee on November 22–2005.

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