The European Union’s Communication Strategy on the Armenian Problem: The Example of the 1987 Reference EP Resolution

The European Union (EU), mainly the European Parliament (EP), declared the 1915-1917 events as genocide as finding it applicable to the “genocide” definition in United Nations’ decision on 9 December 1948 since the 1980s. Having constructed its communication strategy with this preliminary acceptance, the European Parliament asked Turkey to also accept this decision and declared that denial of the Armenian genocide is the absolute obstacle before European Union membership. As is known, the European Union, which Turkey tries to be a member of, is a supranational organization, which has the sanction power on Turkey with its decisions. Right after the application of Turkey for full membership to the European Communities, the Armenian diaspora and lobbies, who got the genocide claims accepted in the European Parliament in 1987, want to obtain their old goals by also forcing on this method.

Communication Diplomacy Shaped in the Leadership of the European Parliament

There are different approaches and communication strategies of the European Union in relation to the Armenian genocide claims. While the European Commission, the Council and Summits take implied decisions with more diplomatic formulations, the European Parliament take more clear and explicit decisions away from diplomatic worries (Ünal, 2011, 253-266). At the same time, the European Parliament, which reflects the voice of the European public opinion, asks Turkey clearly to recognize the Armenian genocide and encourage other institutions and member countries to take similar decisions. While the European Parliament claims that recognition of the Armenian genocide is a precondition for the membership of Turkey into the European Union in the reference decision it took in 1987 on the issue, the European Commission in charge of conducting the negotiations doesn’t state this clearly, but takes some decisions in reference to that resolution (For example, Commission of the European Communities, Turkey 2004, 2004 Regular Report from the Commission on Turkey’s Progress Towards Accession, 6 October 2004.). Similarly, the EU Heads of States and Governments and the European council indirectly mention such recognition by considering the Copenhagen criteria that member countries are supposed to observe. Also, Turkey is asked to normalize its relations with Armenia. When handled within the historical process, it is observed that the European Union and some member countries support the Armenian theses and they create a political and psychological pressure point on Turkey by bringing the Armenian problem forward at every opportunity. In this regard, mainly the reference decision of the European Parliament in 1987 and other decisions taken in reference to this decision and the reports prepared highly ease their ways.

After the 1980s, the EP which played a determining role in Turkey’s relations with the EC/EU prepared significant reports and took decisions especially right after Turkey’s official application for membership into the European Community. There were institutional changes within the EU in the spontaneously conducted institutional reform period. In this regard, it is a historical phenomenon that the authorities of the European Union, where the will of Europeans is represented, were gradually increased in the period after 1980 and it tested its political authority on Turkey in parallel with this. The institution, which stated the demands of the EU from Turkey in the most clear and rude way away from comprehensible diplomatic language, is the European Parliament. Also, its decisions are observed to come before Turkey as the Council or Commission decision in later periods (Şimşir, 2006, p.10). Therefore, benefitting from the EP decisions and strategic moves will be a strategic method in order to analyse the approach and politics of the EU towards Turkey.

European Commission, unlike thought in Turkey, never ignores the decisions of the European Parliament, takes them into consideration, and definitely refers to the EP’s decisions in its studies and reports. No matter how it is said in Turkey that the decisions of the EP are recommendations, these decisions are important as part of the European body of knowledge and similar decisions are also taken by other institutions of the EU in reference to these decisions. On the other hand, when European Commission and Parliament accept a decision, they follow a communication strategy for member countries as “now that you are members of EU, then you also accept these decisions” (Şimşir, 2006, p. 10), the decisions of the European Parliament on the Armenian problem in this regard are faced as one of the most important criteria determining the approach of the EU towards the Armenian problem and its communication diplomacy.

Reference the EP Resolution on 18 June 1987

It is very interesting that the EP took its decision “Believes that the tragic events in 1915-1917 involving the Armenians constitute genocide within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and the punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948 and asks Turkish government to recognize it as well. Declares that Turkey’s denial of this phenomenon is the absolute obstacle of its European Community membership” which recognizes the Armenian genocide right after ASALA laid down arms (Hyland, 1991).

Right after Turkey’s application for full membership to the European Community (Arslan, 2008, p. 124-149), this decision, accepted in relation to the Armenian problem on 18 June 1987, is the most comprehensive decision on the issue and significant in terms of its timing as it would be a reference source for later decisions and reports. Therefore, this decision, which is very important for shaping the issue, draws the route of the developments. The resolution refers to all former resolutions, law proposals, and reports on the issue in the European Parliament one-by-one and involves judgments which highly disturb Turkey for being very prejudiced and partial. It is emphasized in the decision that the Armenian party evaluated the 1915 events as a planned genocide within the scope of the 1948 United Nations Agreement, and the Turkish Government always rejected the genocide accusation on the grounds that it is baseless. According to the decision, the EP is also sure that the recognition of the minority identity of the Armenian people in terms of ethnicity, language, and religion will start with the recognition of their history.

It is similarly focused in the decision on

E.) To date, the Turkish Government, by refusing to recognize the genocide of 1915, continues to deprive the Armenian people of the right to their own history;

F.) The historically proven Armenian genocide has so far neither been the object of political condemnation nor received due compensation;

G.) The recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey must therefore, be viewed as a profoundly humane act of moral rehabilitation towards the Armenians, which can only bring honour to the Turkish Government;

H.) Profoundly regretting and condemning the mindless terrorism by groups of Armenians who were responsible between 1973 and 1986 of several attacks causing death or injury to innocent victims and deplored by an overwhelming majority of the Armenian people; in Article 12 condemns strongly any violence and any form of terrorism carried out by isolated groupings unrepresentative of the Armenian people;

I.)  the obdurate stance of every Turkish Government towards the Armenian question has in no way helped to reduce the tension.

In Article 1, the EP: Believes that the Armenian question and the question of minorities in Turkey must be resituated within the framework of relations between Turkey and the Community; points out that democracy cannot be solidly implanted in a country unless the latter recognizes and enriches its history with its ethnic and cultural diversity.

In Article 2, it is emphasized that the tragic events in 1915-1917 involving the Armenians living in the territory of the Ottoman Empire constitute genocide within the meaning of the convention on the prevention and the punishment of the crime of genocide adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1948; recognizes, however, that the present Turkey cannot be held responsible for the tragedy experienced by the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire and stresses that neither political nor legal or material claims against present-day Turkey can be derived from the recognition of this historical event as an act of genocide. It is seen that this article was studiously prepared and instead of the word genocide the term the tragic events of past that Turkey defends was sensitively used with diplomatic formulations. By putting emphasis on that today’s Turkey will not be held responsible of the tragedy caused by the Ottoman Empire, the EP followed a communication strategy which gives an image which ease, encourage, and guarantee Turkey’s recognition of the genocide with a strategic move. That is to say, with a strategic and diplomatic move, a language and tone which would make it easy for Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide was used with the deception that recognition of genocide will not cause political, legal, and economic demands by stating that Turkey will not be held responsible of the tragic events of the past.

No matter how some say within Turkey that recognition of genocide claims will not bring retroactive compensation obligation, such demands can always be put forward and get accepted.

(Ortaylı, 2009, p. 198).

The Article 3, it calls on the EP Council to obtain from the present Turkish Government as acknowledgment of the genocide perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915-1917 and promote the establishment of a political dialogue between Turkey and the representatives of the Armenians.

In Article 4, the EP lists these as the insurmountable obstacles before the possibility of Turkey’s accession to the Community: the refusal by the present Turkish Government to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenian people committed by the Young Turk government, its reluctance to apply the principles of international law to its differences of opinion with Greece, the maintenance of Turkish occupation forces in Cyprus, and the denial of existence of the Kurdish question, together with the lack of true parliamentary democracy and the failure to respect individual and collective freedoms, in particular freedom of religion. These insurmountable obstacles stated by the EP as early as 1987 still preserve their validity with all the depth for Turkey-EU relations.

In other articles of the EP decision in summary: it is demanded that the Armenian minority living in Turkey are justly treated with the consideration of their identity, language, religion, culture, and education systems. Also, warnings are made for the maintenance and protection of monuments and religious architectural heritage of Armenians in Turkey. In this regard, it calls on Turkey in this connection to abide faithfully by the provisions for the protection of the non-Muslim minorities as stipulated in Articles 37 to 45 of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Also, the EP calls on the Community to extend the Association Agreement with Turkey to the cultural field so that the remains of Christian or other civilizations such as the ancient classical, Hittite, Ottoman, etc., in that country are preserved and made generally accessible (Doc. A’-33/87, articles 5-6-7-8-9).

In Articles 10 and 11 of the 1987 resolution, Iran and the Soviet Union are criticized for their negative attitude towards the Armenian population. While Iran is called to be respectful to the Armenian language and their own education in accordance with the rules of their own religion, the Soviet Union is condemned for the violation of individual freedoms committed against the Armenian population.

In Article 12, any violence and any form of terrorism carried out by isolated groupings unrepresentative of the Armenian people are condemned and reconciliation between Armenians and Turks is called.

In Article 13, the EP calls on the Community Member States to dedicate a day to the memory of the genocide and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the 20th century, specifically against the Armenians and Jews.

Within this framework, the EP declared that it would make a substantial contribution to initiatives to encourage negotiations between the Armenian and Turkish people (articles 10-11-12-13-14).

As it is also seen in this decision: the Turkish Nation is accused of a genocide which doesn’t have any written-oral cultural-historical structure and is the most vulgar and shameful crime of the humanity which is not possible to legally drop due to prescription. Moreover, the EP is applying a communication strategy which tries to get the genocide accepted with a diplomatic move such as Turks perpetrated genocide on Armenians and only the Ottoman Empire is responsible for this which doesn’t have any historical, legal, and scholarly basis.

According to the European Union body of knowledge, the European Parliament is not an institution or a court where historical events are tried, but it created a pressure point against Turkey by taking a sided political decision, though it is not related to a historical event. The EP made historical events a dogma on which no discussion can happen and the opposite cannot be claimed by this prejudiced acceptance. However, interpreting and evaluating historical events is an issue which falls in the duty and authority area of expert historians and exceeds the skills of the EP, which is a political organ (Ünal, 2011, p. 258). Turkey is intensely accused of perpetrating genocide against Armenians in recent years and these assaults increase especially in April of every year and they turn into attacks. We once again clearly see as the repetition of history how all these of politics and communication strategies encourage and give hope to Armenians in going towards the demands of new lands and rejection of their current borders.

On 18 June 1987, the European Parliament decision recognizing Armenian genocide, and the decisions taken in reference to this decision later on, also draw the route of this and ease the way for them. Thanks to the decisions of the European Parliament, Armenian claims turned into a political pressure point in Turkey’s international relations and it became a device that some countries use against Turkey. As especially those who don’t want Turkey to be a member of the EU use this issue and conduct politics, both they and Armenians obtain political gains against Turkey, which is seen as the hostile on the opposite line (Arslan, 2005, p. 146). In reference to the decision of the European Parliament, the acceptance of these claims and recognition of genocide are brought before Turkey as the condition of full membership in Turkey-EU relations (November, 2006, p. 14). Therefore, Armenian claims are linked to the EU process of Turkey and the acceptance of these claims and recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide are asked as a condition of full membership in various shapes, in direct or indirect ways through the European Parliament.

Consequently, being taken to EU platforms with this reference decision taken as early as in 1987 with the leadership of the European Parliament, the Armenian problem became political far beyond being a historical problem any longer. Furthermore, genocide claims, which were legalized in Greece and France and brought into question in the parliament of various countries in reference to this reference decision, meet us as a politicalized problem.


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