Dreaming West & Moving East?

The European Union & Turkey
Dr Harry Hagopian


Sta tements

Earlier this month, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, expressed
the opinion that Turkey's candidacy to the European Union would be
inadvisable since it would run against the ethos of Europe's present
club of 25. Citing the Ottoman Turkish Empire's past incursions into
the heart of Europe as proof of its disqualifying 'otherness', he
added that Turkey is 'in permanent contrast to Europe' and it would be
a mistake to link a predominantly Muslim secular republic of 70
million people to Europe within the framework of the Union.

In an acerbic editorial entitled Saying No to Turkey, the New York
Times upbraided the top Catholic theologian for being a 'meddlesome
cleric' who was inflaming an important debate. It suggested that the
Vatican was adopting this approach because it had failed to persuade
Europe's leaders to enshrine Christianity in the final draft of the EU
Constitution. The editorial continued its criticism by adding that 'it
would be refreshing if the cardinal had chosento emphasise the
positive potential in combining the best Christian tradition of
charity and the best Muslim tradition of social justice.'

Conversely, other commentators stressed that the Eurocentric values of
the European Union would be seriously undermined by Turkey's
accession. They opined that the Council should not begin formal
accession talks with Turkey [in December 2004] unless it improved its
human rights record - one that is still noticeably chequered despite
some noteworthy efforts by Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip
Erdogan. Many lobbying groups also added that Turkey should address
its illegal occupation of northern Cyprus and its continuing denial of
the Armenian Genocide of 1915 concurrently with the requisite economic
re-adjustments and socio-political improvements that were called for
by the Council of Europe under the five criteria framed in Copenhagen
in December 2002. ¬


In an article in Zaman on 7 August 2004, Etyen Mahcupyan focused on
the Turkish Prime Minister's recent visit to France. He argued that
François Hollande, leader of the French Socialist Party, had insisted
to the Turkish Prime Minister that the Armenian issue should be taken
up in the human rights context. Although the Copenhagen criteria do
not include the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a precondition
for future accession, the Party leader had emphasised the unchanging
policy of the Socialist Party that Turkey ought to accept that those
events 'took place'.

Mahcupyan's article reminded his readers that 'the European Union
institutions, the Armenian Diaspora, Armenia, the government of the
TurkishRepublic as well as the state, and finally, the Armenian
congregation in Turkey, all have different perceptions of the
"Armenian issue", and that the political functions and meaning of
these approaches may differ from one other.' He suggested that three
factors should be factored into the EU strategy: (i) Turkey's own
objectives and its responsibility toward itself and its own society,
(ii) the role of political globalisation within the EU process, and
(iii) honesty over historical facts and truths. From a pan-Armenian
perspective, he added, this would imply that Turkey should stop
dodging the "Armenian issue" [by acknowledging its responsibility for
the events of 1915].

In an earlier article in Le Figaro on 26 July 2004 entitled Les
raisons de refuser la candidature d'Ankara, Alexandre Del Valle argued
against Turkey's EU membership. He stressed that Turkey is
historically as much European as colonial France could ever be
considered African. He suggested that Turkey's history, values and
'civilisational conscience' are Asiatic and that the Golden Age was
the apogee of the Ottoman Empire. Those few Turks in Istanbul who feel
European are offset, he added, by the huge masses that identify
themselves more closely with their Iraqi neighbours than with
Europeans. The author of La Turquie dans l'Europe, un cheval de Troie
islamiste?, who is viewed in somecircles as a controversial anti-Islam
iconoclast, cited the pan-Turkish policies in Central Asia and the
Caucasus as a sign that Turkey is a country that 'dreams west and
moves east'.

Del Valle disputed the 'irreversibility' of Turkish EU candidacy on
the basis that it had signed an Association Agreement in 1963, or that
it was a member of NATO and the Council of Europe. He reminded his
readers that the official request for adhesion submitted by Ankara in
1987 was voted down by the European Parliament, which had in turn
demanded the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the improvement of
minority rights and the withdrawal of Turkish forces from Cyprus as
preconditions for membership. To date, Turkey has not fulfilled all
those pre-conditions. Furthermore, Del Valle disputed the claims that
Turkey remains a 'lay exception' and a natural ally against the rise
of Islamism. He wrote that an emerging Turkish re-Islamisation under
Menderes, Demirel and Turgut Ozal has led to the death of Kemalism and
that all indications of a re-Islamised society - from veils to
blasphemy cases - are becoming stronger every day.

Turning his attention to the geopolitical consequences of Turkish
adhesion to the EU, Del Valle refuted the claim that the integration
of Turkey into Europe would help enhance its democratisation
process. Underlining the Greco-Roman influences as much as
Judaeo-Christian culture of Europe, he argued that countries such as
the Ukraine, Byelorussia or Russia are infinitely more European - and
therefore more prone toward EU adhesion than Turkey. Admitting Turkey,
he added, would open a Pandora's box of EU expansion whereby another
200 million Turkic people in the Caucasus and Central Asia, let alone
the people of the Maghreb, would vie for EU membership and create huge
problems with water, boundaries and minorities' rights. He concluded
by emphasising that it would be a mistake to admit Turkey for the sake
of preserving a Kemalist exception in a post-Kemalist country and
thereby triggering an unmanageable process.

International Minorities Rights Standards

The European Council is due to decide in December 2004 whether Turkey
has met the Copenhagen political and economic criteria in order to
start formal accession talks, and whether it can also demonstrate the
'stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law,
human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.'

What, therefore, is Turkey's determining attitude vis √ vis its
minorities today? Do its policies bolster its EU candidacy let alone
its claims for European identity and legitimacy? How do minorities
fare in Turkey today? Are Armenians, Greeks and Jews, alongside other
minorities who are not recognised in the Turkish Constitution,
guaranteed their human rights and fundamental freedoms?¬ In this
context, the EU revised Accession Partnership has set out that Turkey

Guarantee in law and in practice the full enjoyment of human rights
and fundamental freedoms by all individuals without discrimination and
irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion,
religion or belief in line with relevant international and European
instruments to which Turkey is a party ‚=80¶ Ensure cultural diversity
and guarantee cultural rights for all citizens irrespective of their

Two principal texts that set out international minority rights
standards are (i) the Council of Europe's Framework Convention for the
Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) and (ii) the International
Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights (ICCPR). To date, Turkey has
refused to sign the FCNM despite repeated requests by the
Parliamentary Assembly. It has also entered a reservation under
article 27 of the ICCPR limiting the rights under this Article only to
those minorities recognised under its Constitution or the Lausanne
Peace Treaty.

According to Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Turkey has
taken significant steps towards meeting the Copenhagen criteria. Ever
since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the parliamentary
elections in November 2002, the government has made EU accession its
foremost priority. Its reforms have broken some taboos, particularly
regarding the property rights of non-Muslim minorities, broadcasting
in minority languages and the legalising of private language
courses. However, many reliable sources in Turkey affirm that serious
disparities still remain between what is on paper and what happens in
practice on the ground, and significant questions therefore arise
about Turkey's basic outlook both on the concept of change and on the
sustainability of those changes. If Turkey's basic outlook were not
itself altered, the regulationsthat are issued regarding the
implementation of the laws could become inconsistent with the laws
themselves and thereby introduce further restrictions. As a result,
the whole purpose of reform would be compromised and public officials
could effectively end up forestalling their implementation.

According to a recent MRG Briefing, Turkey should re-engage further
its policies toward minorities' rights in:

1. International commitments and issues of recognition
2. Religion
3. Education
4. Political participation
5. Freedom of expression and broadcasting
6. Alphabet, using personal and place names, and using language in
administrative and judicial services
7. Association and peaceful assembly
8. Freedom of movement and internal displacement
9. Discrimination as an EU acquis communautaire

The Armenian Genocide 1915

Most Armenians view the Armenian Genocide as a weal on their
collective psyche. Writers like Yehuda Bauer, Robert Melson, Howard M
Sachar and Samantha Power suggest that it provided a template for the
Jewish Holocaust. Yet, the United States of America, the United
Kingdom, Germany and Israel are complicit in this Turkish denial and
do not seem to regard Turkey's persistent denial ofits past Ottoman
history as a violation of a whole people's human rights.

The issue is not solely whether one million Armenians, or more or
less, were exterminated during this period. Nor could it be about the
Turkish feeble riposte that Turks massacred Armenians because the
latter allied themselvesduring WWI with Russia against Turkey. After
all, the number of Armenian Turks turning against Turkey in 1915 was
very small. Besides, the huge Hamidian massacres against Armenians in
1895, or those by Turks and Kurds in 1909 just before the Balkan Wars,
occurred not at a time of war but at a time of peace. The issue is
moral, and the facts do not exonerate Turkey from its erstwhile intent
to destroy a whole ethnic and religious group in Turkey by killing its

History consolidates the moral imperative too, since many historians
world-wide - including Turkish and British historians - have
acknowledged the Armenian Genocide. I need not remind the reader of
the number of countries, parliaments or institutes that have already
recognised this first official genocide of the 20th century. Nor do I
need to quote the judgments of legal bodies suchas the New York based
International Center for Transitional Justice {assisting countries
pursuing accountability for past mass atrocity or human rights abuse}
in February 2003 stating that genocide has occurred during the
multiple horrors of WWI. At a time when we have witnessed a
realignment of the worldorder after 9/11, and where the West insists
on democracy, good governance and human rights in more open societies,
it is inadmissible that grave untruths are allowed to dictate let
alone steer foreign policy matters.

Moreover, as Dr Alfred De Zayas, Professor of International law and
former Secretary to the UN Commission on Human Rights, wrote in his
Memorandum in June 2003, the Armenian Genocide fits the legal
definition of the UN Convention of 1948. But Terrence Des Pres aptly
reminded his readers in On Governing Narratives: the Turkish-Armenian
Case, that 'knowledge is no longer honoured for its utopian promise,
but valued for the service it furnishes.' And as Deborah Lipstadt also
wrote in 1996, 'Denial of genocide strives to reshape historyin order
to demonise the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators, and is -
indeed - the final stage of genocide.'

In her book Trauma and Recovery, Dr Judith Lewis Herman wrote that
criminal behaviour is always defined by the perpetrator's compulsion
'to promote forgetting'. She added that 'secrecy and silence are the
perpetrator's first line of defence'. If that fails, 'the perpetrator
attacks the credibility of his victim'. And if he cannot silence his
victim, 'he tries to make sure that no one listens' by either denying
or rationalising his crime. Today, Turkey might well deem that it is
in its interest to deny the Armenian Genocide for reasons of pride as
much as for fear over the consequences of recognition - namely
restitution. However, the political and economic dividends that would
accrue to Turkey and its neighbouring countries (including Armenia) as
a result of good neighbourly relations in the Caucasus are
enormous. Yet, to achieve this goal, recognition becomes an
indispensable tool not only to globalise the whole region, but also to
unburden both the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide of
the heavy cross they have been bearing for eighty-nine years.

¬ Conclusion

There are those who profess that Turkey's membership to the EU would
put a stop to its rampant nationalism and curb the stranglehold of the
military establishment on democracy, human rights and fundamental
freedoms. Others also use the 'religious card' as an argument in
favour of accession. Turkey must be admitted to the EU, they say, to
prove that Europe is not a Christian club.>From a more subjective
perspective, some Armenians also add that such a step would force
Turkey to remove its blockade of Armenia and that EU citizenship would
provide Armenian Turks with freedom of movement.

Notwithstanding those arguments, which could ostensibly be either
right or wrong, the trenchant fact remains that Turkey has simply not
fulfilled the criteria that would allow its admission into the EU
club. I am not yet convinced that a credible argument could be made
today for Turkey's EU accession. Moreover, I reject the expedient
religious card since it is tantamount to stating that Israel must be
admitted into the Arab League to prove that it is not a Muslim club.

Four months shy of the cut-off date of December 2004, I recognise that
the political and socio-economic stakes are high, and therefore the
bars must correspondingly be high too. However, the pragmatist in me
recognises that the ultimate decision for or against accession will be
made in the uncompromisingly introverted political corridors of power
- not at the European Parliament or in the intellectual and
research-friendly corridors of a think tank or NGO.

Might I therefore suggest two litmus tests? The burden of proof should
rest on Turkey to prove unequivocally that it meets all the Copenhagen
criteria in order to ensure that its accession would enhance rather
than impede the EU momentum and system of values. Turkey should also
lift the fog of untruth that surrounds its denial to the Armenian
Genocide by assuming responsibility for the aggregate crimes
perpetrated against Armenian Turks by its predecessor regime.

If this were to happen in a transparent and verifiable way, and if
reciprocity establishes its relevance in Armenian-Turkish relations, I
re-iterate a promise I made to a Turkish journalist friend last week
that I would personally welcome Turkey into the EU. But Merhaba¬ is a
sign of welcome that comes with definition and trust.
It is not a cheap giveaway greeting!