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The little matter of a genocide

by Sirocco Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:06:46 PM EST

Stormy weather ahead for Turkish EU aspirations. From Deutsche Welle:

Ankara Haunted by Armenian Massacre

When the German parliament condemned the mass killing of Armenians by Turks 90 years ago, it sparked angry protest from Ankara. But if it wants to be taken seriously by the EU, it needs to face up to its past.

In a vote Thursday, Germany's main parliamentary parties joined forces to deplore the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1916.


Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul described the resolution as one-sided and "provocative," and said German lawmakers had ignored repeated warnings of the harm the resolution would do to bilateral ties.

More from the same source:

Faruk Sen is the director of the center for Turkish studies in Essen in Germany. He feels disapointed [sic] by the Turkish Foreign Minister's harsh criticism of the resolution, and says Turkey has to look forward.

"80,000 Armenians live in Turkey," he told DW Radio. "Each year, more than 100,000 come to Turkey to work there. It is time for reconciliation. I think to look back on 90 years of history doesn't help at all. Turkey and Armenia need good relations today."


President Jacques Chirac of France, home to Europe's largest Armenian diaspora, said failure by Turkey to recognize the genocide could harm the country's EU bid.

Faruk Sen, however, is critical of the EU's stance.

"If that's the opinion of the EU, it is a shame," he insisted. "Because then, Turkey and the EU cannot negotiate anymore. The EU would have to do without Turkey."

Yes, I am sure that would devastate the EU. Not.

It is the world's poorest kept secret that key EU leaders are none too keen on Turkish membership. (Their voters' unkeenness is hardly secret at all.) A laundry list of anxieties shared by elites and masses alike: fear of Islamism gaining ground in Europe; of massive social dumping; of demands for structural transfer funds proportional to those awarded Southern and Central Europe; and of landing the EU's frontiers smack in the Middle East. Whatever one feels about such fears, they do mean that Paris and even Berlin are not breaking down in tears if negotiations stall.

The EU has long been teasing Ankara with the prospect of inclusion, dangling the carrot before its longing eyes while presenting an ever growing list of conditions. Which is splendid - it has spawned a more relaxed approach to the Kurds as well as general human rights progress. But there remains the little matter of a horrific genocide so thoroughly dumped in the memory hole that Holocaust deniers would be proud.

Armenian GenocideIf the Turkish establishment, including the powerful army jealously guarding Atatürk's legacy, persists in denying the atrocities of 90 years ago, then I think the EU will rightly conclude that the time is not yet ripe for Turkish entrance. It is all very well to look forward, but confronting the past is a matter of decency. It's a matter, in fact, of not whistling past the graveyard of some 1,5 million victims. Besides, Turkey might find that admitting what is well known anyway would improve, not worsen, its relations with Armenia.

But make no mistake: Whatever noises of regret are made, the EU, including Schröder or his successor, will sigh in relief if Ankara absolves it of the need to turn over the membership carrot.

My bet is that the Turkish government will budge and recognize the past during the next few years. The alternative would be a shame - for the vision of an inclusive Europe, yes; but above all, for the Turks.

Flame me if you like, while I go grab a beer.

The world's northernmost desert wind.
by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:10:19 PM EST
can dig up the Armenian press's response?
by BooMan on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:24:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
deal with this? Refusing to acknowledge the genocide keeps them in conflict with potential allies and friends all over the world. Don't they realize how much their stubbornness has hurt them?
by Matt in NYC on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:39:14 PM EST
Sirocco, there should be no place in the EU for Turkey until they resolve this.

Would Germany have taken its (rightful) place in European affairs if it had persisted in denying the Holocaust and all the other horrors of Nazism?

by Matt in NYC on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:43:07 PM EST
My answer to Matt's question: Turkey cannot deal with this because they have too often been enabled by the West in their denials. When an Armenian genocide resolution was about to pass congress in the 1990s, Clinton sent out the word to quash it. When I called up my wonderful Democratic congresswoman (who is sadly no longer mine because of redistricting) I received this response from her: "The resolution is all a part of a political ploy by a Republican congressman outside Los Angeles."

That's too bad I wrote, but it doesn't address the fact that the US does not recognize the fact that millions of Armenians were killed in a genocide.

Same thing happened in France in the late 1990s. Chirac went to bat to make sure it wasn't recognized. I'm sad to say that Israel's gov't as well, in their cozy relationship with Ankara, is keen to ignore this genocide, however ironic this may be.

It's just as shameful for California politicans to use this genocide to garner votes and for European politicans to now use it as an excuse to bar Turkey.

I realize this will be an incredibly painful admission for Turkey. The citizens simply do not believe it happened. So it's not a matter of simply coming to grips with the truth. This is about the nation's mass consciousness. I do not expect them to come to grips at all. It will stop Turkish accession in its tracks.

by Upstate NY on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 12:47:43 PM EST
The French Parliament has voted to officially recognise the Armenian genocide. This has created major strains with Turkey, but France has stood pretty firm on this.

I am generally favorable to Turkey's entry into the EU, but it should be on the EU's terms, and not on bilaterally negotiated more favorable terms, and it should certainly include a recognition of the genocide.

We'll see.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 03:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Jerome, I'm aware of the recently passed recognition. However, the first time around a few years ago, the French caved as well.
by Upstate NY on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 03:33:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But make no mistake: Whatever noises of regret are made, the EU, including Schröder or his successor, will sigh in relief if Ankara absolves it of the need to turn over the membership carrot.
(from the diary)

Looks like the EU split is widening - constitution, budget, enlargement - lots of bad news the last few days.  As reported today by the Guardian:

Talks on Turkey's accession, a British priority for its presidency starting in three weeks' time, are due to start formally in October.
The French specifically said they were not seeking to stop those talks. But they are likely to find a ready ally in Germany.

"Poor" Turkey - not only do they have to come clean on the Armenian atrocities - that may not be enough, as they are but a little chip in the high-stakes game we are witnessing.
by ask on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 04:11:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strictly speaking, I would say it isn't enough. There are a lot of structural demands that need to be made in the meantime.

In a perfect world, negotiations with Ankara would continue on a steady timetable in which incremental progress is made. Ankara would begin seeding the possibility of a genocide recognition 15 years from now. That's how long it would take for the Turkish public to come to grips with the truth. If the Europeans force this down the Turks' throats now, it's tantamount to just excluding them entirely.

I am CONVINCED that the genocide is just a bargaining chip. For many years, the EU was protected by the Greeks and Cypriots who were expected the wield a veto against Turkey. But after "earthquake diplomacy," when the Greeks and Cypriots favored Turkey's inclusion into the EU, the EU suddenly found itself without a basis for excluding Turkey.

The Turks well know that there are a few things that absolutely must be done before they would enter the EU entirely, but that process can take 15 years.

by Upstate NY on Sat Jun 18th, 2005 at 07:18:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Turkey should apologize and get this over with, no question. But what interests me is the attitude towards Turkey's potential joining of the EU: The diarist seems to not welcome Turkey into the union.

From an American viewpoint, I can on the one hand understand the problems that Turkey would bring to the EU. But on the other hand, in our case we would generally WELCOME the addition of a new state because of the many benefits that come with an expanded union.

For example, suppose that Mexico decided to join the United States. Industry would love this, because a whole new population of low wage workers would become available. Mexicans would love it, because they would be able to freely move between Mexico and California, offering much better job opportunities. Americans would like the new low cost goods and the increased ability to travel to and retire to a warm climate while retaining the advantages of American residency. About the only people who wouldn't like it are Mexican politicians who would lose prestige and money.

Why isn't it this way with Turkey and the EU? If France, Germany, and Poland (mortal enemies for centuries) can get together, why can't Turkey join too?

by asdf on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 01:16:26 PM EST
I don't think you can make this analysis. I'm not going to patronize you and say it is more complex, but the fact is, Turkey is a big country that wields lots of leverage, power, strategic influence. It would demand AND deserve a sizable chunk of the vote. Mexico might come into such an agreement a little bit supplicant because it has no inherent strategic value the way that Turkey does, both geographically, culturally and militarily. Turkey would not supplicate itself whatsoever.

And when you consider that the US is and probably always will be Turkey's biggest ally, then you've effectively invited a fifth column inside Europe's decision making chamber.

Mind you, I am fully in favor of Turkey's joining the EU. But it's not without its pitfalls. I'm not sure you can brush aside genocide so quickly either. It's a horrific think. I'm of two minds on it, however. If it's very important to the continent to have turkey join, then you simply have to ignore the genocide issues. I could be reading it incorrectly, but I do think that's a non-starter.

by Upstate NY on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 01:28:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be interesting to see what happens. If Turkey decides that she is not going to get into the EU, what will happen then? She could just do the trade area thing with the EU, or could swing Islamist and re-orient towards the Middle East.

Thank you for not flaming me on my Mexico comparison, which is quite a stretch to put it politely. Mexico's population is about 1/3 of the US's, so it would actually be a bigger addition than the addition of Turkey would be to Europe. It could happen! Although it would have to be one state at a time probably...

My personal opinion is that the 21st century will be a time when very large trading blocs are established. There is no particular reason why all of Canada could not be integrated into the US, for example--if they wanted it.

by asdf on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 07:53:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, if I lived in Canada, I wouldn't want it. That country's yokels are about to be swallowed by a huge cosmopolitan tide that will irrevocably change the nation's character. The US, at this point, would only retard that progress.

Sometimes, the future makes more sense when it's insulated from negative forces. You have to make sure you're pairing with a society that will benefit your own.

In that light, the US would just swamp Canada.

by Upstate NY on Sat Jun 18th, 2005 at 07:12:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The diarist seems to not welcome Turkey into the union.

And here I thought I didn't take a stand on that.

As a Norwegian I am not really in a position either to welcome anyone into the EU, or otherwise.

The world's northernmost desert wind.

by Sirocco (sirocco2005ATgmail.com) on Sat Jun 18th, 2005 at 06:34:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As a teen, I read a book called The Forty Days of Musa Dagh, by Franz Werfel, about Armenians withstanding a Turkish seige. My family knew some Armenians, and somehow that book found its way onto my reading shelf. It was the first time I had ever heard of that part of modern history, and it stayed with me a long time.

But when I googled just now for Musa Dagh, I found a number of references and also some that seem to fall into the category of holocaust deniers. Read some of the links, see for yourselves. Strong emotions on both sides.

by Mnemosyne on Fri Jun 17th, 2005 at 05:14:16 PM EST

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