Turkey Must Not Accede to European Union Until it Admits Genocide


YEREVAN, JULY 21. ARMINFO. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
has pressed ahead with an official visit to France aimed at prying
open the European Union’s doors to his overwhelmingly Muslim
country. But his quest was a hard sell in France, where leaders have
failed to enthusiastically embrace Turkey’s bid and polls show most
French want Turkey to stay out of the 25-member union. Erdogan, after
meeting with French President Jacques Chirac, on Tuesday, said he
tried to convey the message that Turkey is making the changes required
to meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria for membership and is
counting on France not to withdraw its support. But he said Turkey
should not be held to a higher standard than the other EU members or
the two nations hoping to join in 2007, Romania and Bulgaria. “Turkey
doesn’t ask to join at any price,” Erdogan said at a press
conference. “Joining the EU is not a must for Turkey.” But France has
its doubters. One of the most prominent voices to oppose Turkey
membership has been former French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing,
who bluntly said that Turkey isn’t European and its entry would mean
“the end” of the EU.

The ruling Union for the Popular Majority party, which has an
overwhelming majority in the French parliament, also is hostile to
Turkey’s membership. Erdogan met with former party head Alain Juppe
and others later Tuesday to try to win over hearts and minds. The
French public also needs to be convinced. In a poll of 1,511 people
last month, 61 percent of French who responded said they opposed
Turkey membership in the EU, and only 31 percent said they approved.
Eight percent did not have an opinion. Turkey is hoping for a positive
report on its candidacy from the European Commission this fall. Turkey
hopes to get a start date for entry negotiations at the EU summit in
December, but some European countries have seemed reluctant to include
Turkey _ a country of some 70 million, mostly Muslim inhabitants.

Membership of Turkey, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia,
would stretch the EU’s borders to Syria and Iraq _ a fact that
opponents say moves Europe too close to the unstable Middle
East. Chirac has said that he believes Ankara was not likely to be
able to meet the bloc’s conditions for another 10-15 years. Foreign
Minister Michel Barnier said in a radio interview Tuesday that “Turkey
should not expect to enter the European Union tomorrow morning” even
if it improves its human rights record and reforms its justice system,
two key requirements.

“Turkey still has a ways to go toward becoming a social and democratic
model along the lines of the European model,” Barnier told Europe-1
radio. Turkey also has passed sweeping democratic reforms to meet the
EU’s membership criteria, abolishing the death penalty and granting
greater cultural rights to long-oppressed Kurds. French Prime Minister
Jean-Pierre Raffarin said Monday after talks with Erdogan that France
was awaiting the European Commission report. “We will study the
Commission’s report this fall with the greatest attention,” Raffarin
said. Whatever the outcome of Turkey’s application, it likely will
maintain its strong commercial contacts with France. Turkey’s Anatolia
news agency said that Erdogan and Chirac on Tuesday agreed in
principle on the purchases of 36 Airbus planes by Turkish Airlines at
a cost of around US$1.5 billion. In Paris, members of the
Revolutionary Armenian Federation held a demonstration against
Erdogan’s visit and said Turkey should not be allowed into the EU
until it recognizes the Armenian genocide. Armenians accuse Turks of a
genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. Turks
claim the number of deaths is inflated and say the victims were killed
in civil unrest.

“We are here to convince the French government, specifically Chirac,
to say absolutely ‘No’ to Turkey’s entry into the European Union,”
said Marie Ghazarossian, a housewife of Armenian descent who has lived
in France for 15 years. “Turkey is not a part of Europe, not the
Europe that we know.”