The Armenian Problem in Turkey-European Union Relations

The“Armenian Problem” or the “Armenian Claims about 1915 Events” has a place as an important phenomenon not since 1987 onwards, unlike is widely known by the public opinion, but since 1 December 1964 which was the legal beginning of the relations of Turkey with the European Communities (EC) and therefore with European Union (EU) [1]. If we are to emphasize it in other words, the “Armenian problem closed with the Peace Treaty of Lausanne was reopened in 1964.” (Şimşir, 2006, p. 251)

If we are to explain it in wider expression, the event holding the greatest effect in bringing the “Armenian Claims about 1915 Events” to the agenda again has been the application of Turkey for ‘joint membership’ to the European Economic Community on 31 July 1959. Right after this application, “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” were brought onto the agenda again in the period when ‘Partnership Agreement’ between Turkey and the EEC was signed on 12 September 1963 and this agreement was put into force after being approved in accordance with the methods determined by the internal law of the parties on 1 December 1964.

Within this period when the Armenian problem was again brought onto the agenda with the effect of Turkey’s steps in the process of EC/EU membership[2], the Armenian Church again had a prominent role. With the excuse of the 50th year anniversary of the 1915 Events, declarations were published three straight days by the great Patriarch of the Armenians, Etchmiyadzin Catholicos Vazken I, and Antilyas Patriarch Cilicia Catholicos Khoren I. The Armenian Patriarchs invited the whole world to recognize the 1915 events as genocide with these declarations on 16 August 1964 and 19 August 1964 and “clearly declared war on Republic of Turkey.” [3]

The dates when both the religious leaders made explanations are quite noteworthy. There is nothing called coincidence in history and it is apparent that the declarations are directly related to both the developments about the Cyprus Problem and the start of Turkey’s EU/EC membership process. If we are to emphasize with a more clear expression, the process of propaganda within the scope of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events,” which was started in order to prevent Turkey’s EU/EC membership and lasted until today, was started in 1964.

When the literature in both Turkish and foreign language are reviewed, qualified, but in restricted number studies which analyze the EU factor in Turkey-Armenia relations, are detected. However, it is seen that almost all of these studies study either the decisions of EU Organs within the scope of “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” or the decisions that some EU member countries took in their national parliaments and internal law. Therefore, there is no study[4] which comparatively and comprehensively analyzes the handling of Turkey-Armenia relations in the EU Progress Reports published every year since the full membership process of Turkey.

Within the context of this study, it is argued that the effects of the “Armenian Problem” or the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” on Turkey-EU relations should be analysed by considering five important points:

1st Point: Primarily, the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” is one of the three problems in Turkey-Armenia relations today and it affects Turkey-EU relations like in other problems.

It is possible to define these problems as:

  1. “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events;”
  2. “The Nagorno-Karabakh and the Problem of the Rayon under Occupation;”
  3. “The Problem of Opening the Border Gates.”

These three main problems affecting the relations between two neighbouring countries are based on different foundations, claims, and theses within themselves and it is seen that there are links among these when the process about the solution of these problems are considered. This link is no doubt real. Especially in the recent years, it is seen that the “genocide claims” within the context of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” and “The Problem of Opening Border Gates” were simultaneously brought before Turkey and pressures, mainly by the United States of America (USA), were put on Ankara. However, it should be underlined that the reason why diplomatic relations between Turkey and Armenia cannot be established and the border gates are not opened is not the “genocide claims” as expressed in public opinion from time-to-time, but Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is against international law.

2nd Point: The effect of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events,” which is occasionally brought into the foreground and occasionally forgotten with the influence of various factors in Turkey-EU/EC relations of a history of more than fifty years, can be analyzed under these three titles:

  1. The decisions of EU/EC Organs about the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events;”
  2. The developments brought onto the agenda within the scope of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” in the EU Progress Reports published every year after the full membership process of Turkey;
  3. The decisions taken in some judgmental organs as per the internal law and in the national parliaments/assemblies of EU member countries.

3rd Point: As it can be understood from the titles we stated above as well, these titles will be sufficient only if they will be studied within the context of Turkey’s EU/EC relations. However, as is known, the EU gained legal entity status with the changes made in the Lisbon (Reform) Treaty and the EU Founding Agreement, and also the cooperation of the union member countries before the international problems, primarily other organizations, is targeted within the context of the creation of a joint foreign policy among the Union member countries.

In this regard, the following points should definitely be kept in mind:

  • Within the scope of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events,” there are also decisions taken by the European Council and the European Court of Justice, of which the EU member countries were also members.
  • The problems in Turkey-Armenia relations, mainly the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” were occasionally brought onto the agenda by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which all of the EU member countries were members.
  • The problems in Turkey-Armenia relations, mainly the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” were occasionally brought onto the agenda by the United Nations (UN) and NATO, if not as much as the OSCE. The fact that all EU member countries are members of the UN, and most of them are members of NATO, should not be forgotten on this regard.

4th Point: Another point, which should be emphasized within the context of the 2nd and 3rd points explained above, is the activities that the Armenian lobby based on the Armenian diaspora in Europe through EU organs, and therefore, decision-makers. If we are to express it more broadly, the Armenian lobby engaged in lobbing activities on the national level in the countries members to the Union on the one hand, and did lobbying in the EU Commission, European Parliament, and council on the other hand. It is known that the Armenian diaspora opened institutions named the Armenian Cause European Committee (Comité Européen de la Cause Arménienne- CDCA Avrupa)[5] and offices in Brussels, and were influential in the processes of getting decisions related to Turkey and the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events.” [6]

5th Point: In the foreign and Turkish literature published before studying the relations of Turkey-EU/EC within the context of the “Armenian Claims about the 1915 Events” with certain dimensions, there are studies few in quantity, but valuable in quality. However, as much as we could detect, none of these studies study the issue with all of the dimensions that we suggested above. Another fact to be pointed out about the literature is that all of the studies can study the issue within certain dimensions in the dates they were written/published. For example, it is known that a new intense propaganda process will start targeting 24 April 2015 within the context of the 100th year anniversary of the 1915 events by the Armenian diaspora and Armenia, a short while after this study has been written. In other words, as each study on the issue cannot cover the current developments naturally, they are subject to remain insufficient (old).

Explanations

[1] This article has been written by updating the data in this work published before: Özdal, September-December 2014, p. 3843–3852; Özdal, 2014, p. 113-124.

[2] The effects of the developments in the Cyprus Problem should also be considered at this point.

[3] The comparison belongs to Bilal Şimşir. For the explanations of the Armenian Patriarchs and detailed information on the issue see: Şimşir, 2006: p. 221-228.

[4] For the only exceptional study on this issue, see: Altınbaş, 2011, p. 71-74.

[5] The name of CDCA Europe, has been changed as The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy – EAFJD. The website of EAFJD: http://www.eafjd.eu/ (a.d. 28.02.2015).

[6] The website of FAAE: http://www.faaeurope.eu/ (a.d. 28.02.2015).

Bibliography

Adalet ve Demokrasi için Avrupa Ermeni Federasyonu (The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy – EAFJD) http://www.eafjd.eu/ (a.d. 28.02.2015).

ALTINBAŞ Deniz, “Avrupa Birliği Kurumlarında “Ermeni Meselesi”“, Ermeni Araştırmaları, Volume 39, 2011.

Avrupa Ermeni Dernekleri Forumu (The Forum of Armenian Associations in Europe – FAAE) the website: http://www.faaeurope.eu/ (a.d. 28.02.2015).

ÖZDAL Barış, “Avrupa Birliği İlerleme Raporları Bağlamında Türkiye-Ermenistan İlişkilerinin Analizi”, I. Uluslararası Türk-Ermeni İlişkileri ve Büyük Güçler Sempozyumu, Atatürk Üniversitesi Türk-Ermeni İlişkileri Araştırma Merkezi Erzurum/Türkiye 2-4 May 2012 Erzurum: Atatürk Üniversitesi Yayınları No. 1033, 2014, p. 113-124.

ÖZDAL Barış, “Avrupa Birliği, Türkiye – Ermenistan İlişkilerini Nasıl Okuyor? –İlerleme Raporları İtibarıyla Genel Bir Analiz”, Yeni Türkiye Ermeni Meselesi Özel Sayısı, Book V, September-December 2014, Year 20, Volume 64, p. 3843–3852.

ŞİMŞİR Bilal N., Ermeni Meselesi 1774–2005, Ankara: Bilgi Yayınevi, 3. Press, 2006.

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