First Euro Armenian Convention Declares Values, Views, Advocacy

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Talline Tachdjian
Tel. +32 (0)2 732 70 26
October 19th, 2004


BRUSSELS. BELGIUM (October 19th, 2004) – The first Convention of
European Armenians, convened at the European Parliament, closed today
with the adoption of a final declaration affirming its support for
fundamental European values, the need for the increased promotion of
Armenian identity within Europe, the further integration of Armenia into
the European family of nations, and strong opposition to
Turkey’s candidacy for membership in the European Union.

These points were agreed to by acclamation by the more than two hundred
and fifty delegates to the European Armenian Federation for Justice and
Democracy (EAFJD) Convention, the first of its kind on the European
continent. The declaration will be sent to the twenty-five member
states of the European Union.

The challenges of the EU enlargement process

Today’s progam opened with a panel on `The challenges of
the EU enlargement process,’ moderated by Phillipe Kalfayan, the
Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation of Human Rights
(FIDH). In a sweeping introduction to this topic, Kalfayan touched on
the security, religious and cultural dimensions to Turkey’s
candidacy for membership in the European Union, as well as the impact of
internal Turkish policy on its relations with European institutions.

The first speaker was Prof. Bernard Coulie, a noted historian and the
Rector of the Catholic University of Louvain. Drawing on a reservoir of
historical understanding of Armenia’s longstanding relations
with Europe, Prof. Coulie discussed the prospects for Armenia –
and, with it, the Armenian Diaspora, – drawing closer to the
European Union. He noted with certainty that Armenia will either be in
or on the border with the European Union, as a member or close neighbor.
The Armenian communtiy of Europe, he explained, will play an
increasingly vital catalyst role in bringing Armenia and Europe closer

The second speaker of the day was Jean Varoujan Sirapian, the Chairman
of the Armenian Liberal Democratic (Ramgavar) Party in France. He
spelled out, in a point by point analysis, why Turkey’s
acceptance into the European Union would contradict the spirit of the
Union’s founding and, ultimately, undermine the interests and
values of this vital institution. He sharply criticized the recent
reports issued by the European Commission about Turkey which point out
its many failures, but nonetheless still recommended opening talks on
membership. He announced the publication of a report by the Chobanian
Institute that makes the case against Turkey’s acceptance into
the EU.

The next speaker, Harlem Desir, was the Vice-President of the Socialist
Group in the European Parliament. He stressed the twin points that
Turkey must be held accountable for meeting the EU criteria, but that,
once these points have been met, Turkey could rightfully be considered
for membership. He stressed his efforts and the work of his Party in
pressing Turkey to recognize the Armenian Genocide and noted his regret
that the EU did not formally set Armenian Genocide recognition as a
precondition for membership. Desir made the point that Turkey must do
what Germany and France have done, namely come to terms with their
history. Doing so will not be a setback for Turkey, but rather a
victory for truth. The EU, he noted, should use Turkey’s
interest in membership as leverage to secure continued reforms.

In a spirited and compelling presentation, the next speaker, Frank
Biancheri, analyzed the practical prospects for Turkey’s
acceptance into the EU. Biancheri, the Chairman of the think tank
TIESweb, argued that – for a myriad of domestic and
international reasons – Turkey’s membership was highly
unrealistic during the next twenty years. The fact is, he said, that
the forces against Turkey’s membership have set forth arguments
that have resonance across Europe, while pro-Turkey elements have been
limited to parts of ruling European elites. Given the likelihood of
referendums on Turkey’s acceptance, the chances for approval are
very low. He argued, instead, for a Priviledged Partnership
relationship as a realistic alternative.

The final speaker on the panel was Charles Papazian, representing the
Western Europe branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. His
remarks on Turkey’s EU candidacy argued that its acceptance
would run counter to European values and public opinion across the
continent. He outlined the basis for this opposition, on issues ranging
from genocide denial, blockades, human rights, treatment of minorities,
the continued occupation of Cyprus, and the role of religion in Turkish
society. He stressed the growing gap on this issue between governing
European elites and the broad cross section of popular opinion. He
closed by discussing the ARF’s advocacy and grassroots efforts
in Brussels and throughout Europe in opposing Turkey’s
membership, culmintating in a December 17th demonstration outside of the
European Commission building.

The question and answer period was especially spirited and lasted nearly
two hours. Among the issues raised were the lowering of EU standards
for Turkey, the role of public opinion on Turkey’s candidacy,
and the sincerity of pronouncements by members of Turkey’s
governing elites concerning the EU. During this discussion, remarks
were offered by Charles Tannock, MEP (Christian Democrat, UK), who
criticized the moral double standard being applied to Turkey. He warned
of the large costs of bringing Turkey into the Union and stressed that
serious attention should be devoted to the issues of fundamental
cultural differences, and the role of Islam in Turkey. He predicted
that the top-driven agenda of getting Turkey in the EU will come to a
halt as national referendums are held on this issue.
Following the question and answer session, Hilda Tchoboian, the
Chairperson of the EAFJD, read the Charter of the Convention of
European-Armenians and the Declaration of the Convention, which were
approved unanimously by acclamation. Her comments were followed by
closing remarks by Garo Armenian, member of the ARF Bureau and the
Chairman of the Armenian National Committee international coordinating
body. In his comments, Armenian praised this historic beginning and
noted the progress made by Europe’s Armenian community in
emerging as a political force on the European stage. He stressed the
success of the EAFJD in developing a Europe-wide consensus, and
organizing focused and effective advocacy in the key European capitals.
He closed his comments by noting for all in attendance that the real
work for Europe’s increasingly vibrant Armenian community lies
Press Conference

Following the formal program, Hilda Tchoboian and EAFJD Executive
Director Laurent Leylekian held a press conference for the several dozen
print and broadcast journalists at the Convention.

– Charter of the Convention of European-Armenians (in Armenian)

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress