The Effects of the European Parliament’s Decisions on Turkey-European Union Relations

In this study, the decisions of the European Parliament (EP) after 1987 have been analyzed[1]. The main reason why only the EP has been analyzed is that the subject which brought the Armenian Problem to be used and used as an intervention device against Turkey onto the agenda in EU/EC organs as a result of Armenian propaganda and lobbying activities has been the EP. The reason why the decision taken after 18 June 1987, on the other hand, is that the study is subject to a quantity listing within the scope of an academic article format and it will analyze if these decisions are taken with cyclical effects or not.

As is known, right after the application of Turkey for full membership to the EC on 14 April 1987, the Armenian genocide claims, which was an issue handled in various sub-committees of the parliament for a long time, were brought onto the agenda of the EP. The EP considered the reports and suggestions presented to it before and accepted the “Resolution on Political Solution of the Armenian Problem” [2] on 18 July 1987.

With the decision of the EP in 1987, the so-called Armenian genocide was accepted and this so-called genocide was asked to be recognized by Turkey. With this political decision, which wasn’t binding by the EP, the fact that the Armenian Problem can be a serious obstacle in Turkey’s EU membership process was emphasized in a way to make a basis for the decisions of the EP in the following years.

To the decision taken by the EP in 1987, the reaction of Turkey had been very harsh in the beginning. Various institutions in Turkey emphasized that the genocide claims were baseless with the declarations they gave to important media organs. Kenan Evren, who was the president of the time, even asked “the relations with NATO to be reconsidered after interpreting it as an injustice for Turkey ‘flattered’ to have the biggest army after USA to be left alone the moment the Armenian problem appeared.”

While these reactions ended in a short amount of time, Turkey, trying to develop its relations with the EC, attempted to keep the Armenian Problem issue, brought onto the agenda with the decision taken in the EP, in the background in terms of short-term interests. The Armenian lobby, on the other hand, did not think this decision taken in 1987 was sufficient. In order to keep the issue on the agenda, they tried to bring it to the EU at every chance via the Greek parliamentary members. As a result of the continuous propaganda activities in the EP, the issue of recognition of the Armenian genocide came onto the agenda again right after the acceptance of Turkey’s candidacy membership.

Within this framework, the Armenian claims were included in the “1999 Regular Report from Commission on Turkey’s Progress towards Participation” [3] prepared by the “EP Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Joint Security and Defence Policy Committee” reporter French Christian Democrat Philippe Morillon.

The number 10 clause of this report, accepted with 234 votes in the voting in the EP General Council on 15 November 2000, is as follows:

European Parliament invites Turkish Government and TBMM to increase the support to the Armenian minority constituting an important part of Turkish society and officially recognize the genocide that Armenian minority was exposed to before the establishment of the modern Turkish State.”

            As it is clearly seen in the regulation given above, the EP called the Turkish Government and TBMM to recognize the baseless Armenian genocide claims in the Progress Report Decision on the membership candidacy of Turkey.

Turkey suggested that the “Andonian Documents” and “British Blue Book” used in the preparation of the Morillon Report, constituting the basis for this decision, were baseless and wrong and started to intensively lobby. However, these activities of Turkey, late in the day in my opinion, didn’t give any result and firstly, the Italian Parliament accepted on 17 November 2000 that Armenians were exposed to genocide between the years 1915-1917. The French Senate accepted the “Bill of Law on Armenian Genocide,” proposed on 7 November 2000, on 18 November 2000 and this decision was legalized on 29 January 2001 with Law no 2001/ 70 after being approved by the President.

When the regulation we gave above related to the Armenian genocide claims were included in the “Regular Progress Report” of 1999 accepted by EP, the counter propaganda activities that Turkey started couldn’t prevent the similar decisions in the Italian Parliament and French Senate. However, as a result of lobbying activities before EP members, similar claims were prevented to be included in the 2000 Regular Progress Report.

A short while after this success gained, as a result of intense counter propaganda activities started by Turkey, the Armenian genocide claims were again included in the decision titled “EU Relations with Southern Caucasus” [4] by referring to the decisions taken in 1987. Therefore, it caused the discussions on the issue to come to the World and Turkish agenda once again.

Article 15, included in the report draft prepared by the EP Greens Group member Swiss M. Per Garthon, which constituted the foundation for the decision titled “EU Relations with Southern Caucasus,” is as follows:

“EP calls on Turkey to take appropriate precautions to end the blockade on Armenia in accordance with its goal to join Europe; confirms the approach in the decision on 18 July 1987 which recognized the 1915 Armenian genocide and asks Turkey to do the same.”

As a result of the objections during the negotiations in the EP Foreign Affairs Commission on 23 January 2002 to this regulation, included in the report draft prepared by Garthon, the phrase “the decision on 18 July 1987 which recognized the 1915 Armenian genocide” in the draft was reserved and the remark asking for Turkey to recognize the genocide was removed, but expressions asking Turkey to “create the foundation for reconciliation” with Armenia was put in the report.

Although this change was regarded more positive in comparison to the first draft prepared by Garthon, it didn’t satisfy Turkey due to its reference to genocide. As a result of Turkey’s attempts on this regard, some representatives from the EP Liberal and Greens Group prepared a change resolution not referring to genocide and inviting Turkey and Armenia to cooperate for the solution of historical disagreements in order to make a balanced decision. This change resolution, given as related to the report prepared by Garthon, was presented during the negotiations in the EP General Assembly on 28 February 2002, but it was rejected. In the voting after these developments, the report was accepted by 391 to 96 votes without any change.

Report in 2004

            The draft report prepared in relation to the “2003 Progress Report of the Commission” on 13 January 2004 by EP member Arie Oostlander was brought onto the agenda in the meeting of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Joint Defence, and Security on 17 January 2004. The expression that the “EP members calls on Turkish government and TBMM to recognize the Armenian genocide committed in 1915” in the first draft report was removed from the draft as a result of Turkey’s diplomatic attempts on various levels. Then, the report was again discussed in the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Joint Defence, and Security and was accepted in the session of the committee on 17 March 2004. In the voting after the last meeting in the EP General Assembly on 31 March 2004, the Turkey report prepared by Arie Oostlander and suggestion decision draft based on this were accepted by 211 votes to 84 votes.

While the Armenian genocide claims were not directly included in this decision, there was reference to the EP decision on 17 June 1987 and Turkey was called “… not to prevent the historical compromise and to open the borders with Armenia…”.

As related to the “2004 Progress Report of the Commission” by the EU Commission on 6 October 2004, the EP made a decision in the form of a recommendation on 15 December 2004. If we are to express more broadly, the EU Commission gave place to these points in the part titled “The Effects of Turkey Joining EU” [5] of its report on 6 October 2004;

  • The participation of Turkey in the EU will extend the borders of the Union till Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
  • The EU will make a stabilizing effect in Southern Caucasus via Turkey.
  • However, for this to happen, Turkey needs to solve the problems with its neighbors before joining the Union.

Also, the need for the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening land borders and the development of Turkey-Armenia relations were especially emphasized in the report. As related to the above report of the EU Commission, the EP formed a decision in the form of a recommendation on 15 December 2004. The clauses regarding the Armenian problem of this decision of 69 clauses by the EP are as follows[6]:

Clause 39: The EP calls on Turkey to promote the process of reconciliation with the Armenian people by acknowledging the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians as expressed in the European Parliament’s earlier resolutions with regard to Turkey’s candidate status (from 18 June 1987 to 1 April 2004).

Clause 41: The EP calls on the Commission and the Council to demand that the Turkish authorities formally acknowledge the historic reality of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915 and open the border between Turkey and Armenia at an early date, in accordance with the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament between 1987 and 2004.

Although this decision of the EP is not binding due to its political quality, it is very important, in my opinion, as the Brussels Summit Final Declaration of the EU Council on 17 December 2004 points out to have noted this resolution of the EP in its 21st clause. The EU Council in a way confirms to have adopted this resolution even if by implication and the points included in this resolution during the negotiations for full membership could be brought before Turkey by stating to have noted this resolution of the EP.

As we have analyzed in general in this study, the essence of the EP’s resolution on 18 June 1987 was relieved in the resolutions on 15 November 2000, 28 February 2002, 21 March 2004, and 15 December 2004 as a result of the propaganda activities of the Armenian lobby before the EP members. It is possible to list the common features of these resolutions as follows:

  1. The Ottoman Empire perpetrated genocide on Armenians between the years 1915-1917;
  2. Turkey cannot be held responsible for this crime committed by the Ottoman Empire;
  3. Turkey, who wants to be member to the EU, should accept the EP resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide in 1987 and recognize the genocide.

As it is observed in these common points, the approach of the EP on the Armenian Problem is quite clear. However, it should immediately be stated that although the essence of decisions taken in the EP are the same, their content (how the approach to the Armenian Problem is expressed) differs in relation to the developments in international conjuncture influencing mainly Turkey-EU relations and the counter propaganda activities of both the Armenian lobby and Turkey.

Also, no matter how general and abstract a definition is made in some decisions of the EP on the Armenian problem, all of these decisions by the EP are quite important in terms of Turkey-EU relations. The decision of the EP that we analyzed in this study is of political quality, and despite the fact that they are not legally binding, the EP is a very significant organ in terms of its authorities with Article 49 of the EUFC on the issue of acceptance of candidate member countries as a full member to the EU.

2015 Resolution

This point has been emphasized once again in the final resolution taken by the EP on 15 April 2015. If we are to express it in general terms, this decision, which has the broadest scope in terms of both quality and quantity among the decisions the EP took in recent years is: EP  “Recalls its resolution of 18 June 1987 in which inter alia it recognised that the tragic events that took place in 1915-1917 against the Armenians in the territory of the Ottoman Empire represent a genocide as defined in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948; condemns all occurrences of crimes against humanity and genocide, and strongly deplores any attempts at their denial.”

Clause 8 of the mentioned resolution is: the EP “Invites Armenia and Turkey to use examples of successful reconciliation between European nations and to focus on an agenda that puts cooperation between peoples first; trusts that this will contribute to the historic reconciliation of the Armenian and Turkish people in a spirit of truth and respect; supports civil society initiatives between Turkey and Armenia working towards the normalization of relations; urges Turkey and Armenia to proceed to a normalization of their relations by ratifying and implementing, without preconditions, the protocols on the establishment of diplomatic relations, by opening the border and by actively improving their relations, with particular reference to cross-border cooperation and economic integration.”

There have been different reactions from the EU to this resolution that Turkey didn’t accept and returned to the EU. For example, the EU Commission vice Chair, Kristalina Georgieva, didn’t use the word “genocide,” despite intense criticisms from Parliament members. Georgieva, who preferred to use the expression “tragic events 100 years ago,” focused the main emphasis on reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia and called on “normalization without preconditions.”

Explanations

[1] This article has been written by updating the data in this work published before: Özdal, 2006, p. 73-85; Özdal, 2007, p. 114-125.

[2] The European Parliament, Resolution on a Political Solution to the Armenian Question, Doc. A2-33/87, 18.06.1987. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/intcoop/euro/pcc/aag/pcc_meeting/resolutions/1987_07_20.pdf (e.t. 27.02.2015).

[3] European Parliament A5-0297/2000 November 15, 2000 European Parliament resolution on the 1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Turkey’s progress towards accession (COM(1999) 513 -C5-0036/2000-2000/2014(COS)). (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sidesSearch/sipadeMapUrl.do?PROG=REPORT&SORT_ORDER=DDD&S_REF_A_TYPE=%25&S_REF_A_YEAR=%25&S_REF_A_NUM=%25&REF_A=A5-2000-0297&F_REF_A=A5-0297/00&NAV=S&LEG_ID=5&I_YEAR=00,,&I_NUM=297&L=EN&LEVEL=3&SAME_LEVEL=1 (a.d. 27.02.2015).

[4] “Report on the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Union’s relations with the South Caucasus, under the partnership and cooperation agreements Doc.: A5-0028/2002 Debate: 27.02.2002 Vote: 28.02.2002” http://www.armenian-genocide.org/Affirmation.217/current_category.7/affirmation_detail.html (e.t. 27.02.2015).

[5] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/Result.do?idReq=2&page=1 (a.d. 27.02.2015).

[6] “European Parliament resolution on the 2004 regular report and the recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey’s progress towards accession (COM(2004)0656 — C6-0148/2004 — 2004/2182(INI))”

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:52004IP0096(01):EN:HTML (e.t. 27.02.2015).

Bibliography

European Parliament resolution on the 2004 regular report and the recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey’s progress towards accession (COM(2004)0656 — C6-0148/2004 — 2004/2182(INI)).”

“Report on the communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the European Union’s relations with the South Caucasus, under the partnership and cooperation agreements Doc.: A5-0028/2002 Debate: 27.02.2002 Vote: 28.02.2002” http://www.armenian-genocide.org/Affirmation.217/current_category.7/affirmation_detail.html (a.d. 27.02.2015).

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ÖZDAL Barış, “Türkiye–Avrupa Birliği İlişkileri Bağlamında Ermeni Sorunu II”, Global Strateji Dergisi, Year 2, Vol. 8, Winter 2007, p. 114-125.

ÖZDAL Barış, “Türkiye–Avrupa Birliği İlişkileri Bağlamında Ermeni Sorunu I”, Global Strateji Dergisi, Year 2, Vol. 7, Autumn 2006, p. 73-85.

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