Financial Times (London, England)
October 13, 2006 Friday
London Edition 2

Turkey's EU bid hit by French bill on Armenians

By MARTIN ARNOLD, VINCENT BOLAND, DANIEL DOMBEY and GEORGE PARKER



Turkey's prospects of joining the European Union took a heavy blow
last night when France's National Assembly approved a bill that
outraged Ankara and that critics say will set back the cause of
reform within Turkey.

The French legislation, which could still be blocked by the Senate,
would make it a crime to deny that Armenians were the victims of
genocide in the last years of the Ottoman Empire.

The bill was read in Turkey as a sign that France was now permanently
opposed to Ankara's bid to join the EU.

Bulent Arinc, the parliamentary speaker, criticised France's "hostile
attitude" towards Turkey. "This is a shameful decision. We are very
sorry to see that this (bill) was passed only because of internal
(French) politics."

Turkey denies genocide, and the judicial authorities have prosecuted
writers who have used the term to describe thekillings of Armenians.

Opinion polls show a majority of French voters oppose Turkish
membership. The issue is sensitive in France because of the country's
450,000-strong Armenian community, which has grown rich and
influential.

Jacques Chirac, the French president, favours Turkish accession to
the EU but prominent ministers such as Nicolas Sarkozy are opposed.
Segolene Royal, the Socialists' leading presidential candidate, has
been non-committal, saying she would defer to public opinion on the
question.

But Mr Chirac said on a visit to Armenia this month that Turkish
recognition of the Armenian genocide should become a pre-condition of
EU membership.

Additional reporting by George Parker in Brussels and Daniel Dombey
in London