The Impact of Armenian Diaspora on Turkey-European Union Relations

Armenian diaspora activities against Turkey not only affect Turkish foreign politics, but also block the diplomatic intimacy between Turkey and Armenia. The diaspora harms the foreign politics of Turkey by making European Union countries accept the so-called genocide claims. The Armenian diaspora, creating an environment where they can have a voice in Europe especially in France, Britain and Germany, have been blocking Turkey’s entry into the European Union by their activities in the process of Turkey’s membership.

The Impact of the Diaspora on Turkey-EU Relations

The Armenian diaspora attempted to pressure Turkey by getting the so-called genocide accepted in national and local parliaments of various countries with their campaigns against Turkey. Activities in this direction have greatly increased after Armenia gained independence. Until today, unfair declarations and decisions have been accepted in the parliaments of Belgium, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Slovakia, Greece, the Greek Cypriot State, and the European Parliament. Also, decisions on this issue were passed in the local parliament in Switzerland (Hürriyet, 13.04.2005). We can understand the solid results of these activities of the Armenian diaspora from the fact that so-called genocide drafts were recognized in the parliaments of many countries. [1]

The Armenian diaspora, which increased its support with the World Armenians Conferences and which became a tradition in various European countries since 1967, gradually increased their effectiveness with their marches, protests, and propagandas (Süslü, 1995:27).

The Armenian diaspora and some radical groups today relate Turkey’s EU membership to the Armenian problem and attempt to link Turkey’s EU membership to meeting Armenian demands. Especially, the Armenian diaspora increases their activities on this issue day by day.

France, a member of the European Union, is among the countries that the Armenian diaspora has the biggest numbers in and is the most influential in, after the USA, with 30% of the field of study. The Armenian diaspora in France made their strength in politics felt effectively for many years and France officially accepted that “Turks committed genocide in 1915” on 18 January 2001 with the influence of the diaspora. The Armenian diaspora in France is united in a federation named Union Internationale des Organisations Terre et Culture (UIOTC). There are five monthly-weekly magazines and two daily newspapers read by Armenians in France today. ‘French Armenian Youth Movement’ (Mouvement de la Jeunesse Arménienne de France, J.AF.) also spread Turkish hostility among the youth by working actively.

A so-called genocide monument was erected in Bremen due to intense activities in Germany, which is another EU member country, and the politics of Germany to get rid of the image of being the only country which carried out genocide. On 16 June 2005, Germany accepted that Turkey carried out genocide on the Armenians in 1915.

The decision on claims of Armenian genocide taken on 18 June 1987 by the European Parliament, one of the institutions of the EU, is the first important decision in history. The decision titled “Political Solution of the Armenian Problem” corresponded to a time which was three months after the application of Turkey for full membership (14 April 1987, based on article 237 of the EEC Treaty, article 98 of the ECSC Treaty, and article 205 of the EEC Treaty) to EU today and European Economic Community at that time. The advisory jurisdiction defines the events taking place in 1915-1917 period as genocide according to the United Nations Agreement and indicates that the denial of the Armenian genocide by Turkey would constitute an obstacle for Turkey’s membership. In the abovementioned decision, it is demanded from the EP and the EU Council to call that Turkey recognizes the genocide during the years of 1915-1917 and enters into dialogue with the representatives of the Armenian side (http://www.abmerkezi.org.tr/).

When we look at the perspectives of international organizations on the problem, a declaration meant for only those who signed it was published in 1995 by some members of the parliament of the European Council. According to the declaration, the fact that “24 April 1915 was the date when the plan of wiping out Armenians living in Ottoman Empire was carried out; the anniversary of Armenian genocide, the first genocide of the 20thcentury, was commemorated and the memories of Armenians who were the victims of this crime against humanity were greeted” was declared. The Armenian diaspora, who wants to prevent Turks from coming to a respectable position as a global country in the international world, covers a significant distance in reaching their goals through their politics on conservative Catholics, Orthodox and anti-Turkish parts of the society (Tacar, 2003: 249).

In the Morrillon Report accepted in the Plenary Session of European Parliament in November of 2000, there is a paragraph about the so-called Armenian genocide. The Turkish authorities condemned the report by stating that it was written with a one-sided perspective and according to Armenian claims. The Turkish Foreign Ministry made an explanation as a response to the paragraph and stated that the report damaged the relations with European Parliaments to be developed while the Turkish nation is still suffering the pains caused by Armenian terror. The European Parliament’s baseless decision in 1987 about the so-called Armenian genocide and the wrong evaluations in 1987 are also included in Morrillon Report (Foreign Affairs Journal, November 2000: 72).

Similar to that the Armenian Federation of Europe called 15 EU member countries to be anti-Turkey in 2002, and the Armenian diaspora have many activities against Turkey. The EU is able to take inconsistent steps on this issue which they do not have much knowledge of. While the EU said that Turkey should recognize the Armenian genocide in the decision titled ‘South Caucasian relations of the EU,’ within the framework of European Parliament partnership and co-operation in 2002, Heikki Talvitte, the EU’s special representative in south Caucasia, stated that intimacy between Turkey and EU would help the solution of the Armenian problem and proper steps should not be expected only from Turkey at the point. As it is obvious, the EU is indecisive and ignorant on the issue as a union (Şimşir, 2005, p: 412).

Whenever the recovery of the relations between Turkey and Armenia is attempted by the OSCE and USA, it always faces obstacles by the Armenian diaspora and Turkey is expected to indisputably accept the claims. Armenia, surrounded by about 100 million of the Turkish population, is living with a Turkish threat and is not able to get rid of its prejudices. This perception unfortunately is used and nourished by the Armenian diaspora. As it is known, the population of the diaspora is larger than the population of the Armenian state and it is spread all around the world (Laçiner, Özcan, Bal, 2004: 90).

It is thought that the EU membership of Turkey can change the prejudiced Turkish policy by the Armenian diaspora all around the world and Armenia. Another development giving hope for the future is that both Turkey and Armenia put the membership of the EU among their priorities. The similarity in their goals will make the two countries come closer to each other. However, being aware of this fact, the Armenian diaspora tries to create tensions in the relations by presenting genocide drafts in many European countries and speeding up their activities (Laçiner, Özcan, Bal, 2004: 94).

Armenians play active roles in economic, cultural and political lives of the countries they live in. [2] Diaspora Armenians, who are strictly loyal to their religious and national identities, have founded churches, schools, organizations, charities and media institutions. Also the reason why they live in the West, as they express, is to defend the so-called genocide memorial and heritage (Gürün, 2005: 121). For this purpose, The Forum of Armenian Associations in Europe (FAAE) was founded in 1998 to bring the Armenian institutions in the European diaspora together and ease the co-operation between them. The FAAE, which still supports member institutions in 16 European countries for information network and co-acting, deals with problems the member institutions face such as problems in human rights, economic co-operation and cultural issues. It carries out up-to-date projects on cultural issues such as developing the Armenian language or political issues such as the so-called Armenian genocide and Turkey’s embargo of Armenia (Karagül, 2003: 4).

The FAAE opened an office in Brussels to be able to support help for Armenian organizations working with EU institutions and gain information on Armenian issues in the EU and for the purpose of expertise. The FAAE carries out activities through this office for EU-wide attempts to make Turkey officially recognize the so-called Armenian genocide before full-membership of the EU. It also works for Turkey to remove the embargo applied to Armenia since 1993 and change its politics with Armenia (Karagül, 2003: 5).

It is obvious that Turkey, who has to deal with important problems in the process of entering the EU such as democratization, human rights, the Southeast and Cyprus problems, is driven into a corner with an extra problem which is the Armenian problem. When it is considered from this point of view, it is not too hidden to be able to say that another trump is added to those that the other side will put in front of Turkey in EU membership negotiations (Ermenisorunu.gen.tr).

Conclusion

With Armenian claims brought into question by the Armenian diaspora in various countries and Armenia’s independence in 1991, the international dimension of the problem appeared. The Armenian diaspora, with the negative propaganda they carried out for the recognition of the so-called Armenian genocide, damaged Turkey’s image in international relations and world public opinion and became one of the significant factors threatening Turkey today.

The Armenian diaspora also creates problems in Turkey’s foreign politics and the process of European Union membership and confronts Turkey in every stage. Unless Turkey accepts the genocide claims of Armenians, there is a possibility that the inclination of the European Parliament towards rejecting Turkey to be accepted as a member to European Union will bear negative results for Turkey in the future. Turkey’s theses are not accepted and it is focused on the decisions of the European Parliament on Turkey’s recognition of the genocide which is recognized by many countries and some international organizations.

The European Union enforced two issues on Turkey about the Armenian problem and demanded Turkey to recognize Armenian genocide to be able to enter the EU and open the border gate with Armenia. The tension between Turkey and Armenia, because of the Armenian government’s efforts to bring the genocide claims to the international agenda and the Karabagh problem, has come to a point where it affects, with the intervention of the diaspora as well, the relations between other countries and Turkey and Armenia. The Armenian diaspora is a negative factor in Turkey-Armenia relations. Normalizing the relations with Turkey is for Armenian’s benefit.

One of the countries where the Armenian diaspora is the most powerful among the members of European Union is France. Principally, with the initiation of the diaspora in France, “efforts to make the so-called genocide recognized, historical claims and accusations” continuously pressure Turkey’s foreign politics and give great opportunities to various countries for psychological operations on Turkey.

In fighting with all of these negative propagandas and the diaspora, there is a lot to be done. Turks living abroad should choose getting integratedinto the country they live in rather than being assimilated and make the nongovernmental organizations they founded spread Turkish culture more actively. Just like Armenians follow an effective politics, though they are less in number, Turks around the world should also carry out diaspora activities and introduce Turkey’s deep-rooted conscientious, protective and humanistic face to the world. Needless to say, in the implementation of these applications,theRepublic of Turkey should make these state-sponsored activitiesthrough separate funding. The benefits of globalization will be effective in the solution of this problem. Radio, television andthe Internet will be helpful for Turkey in solving this problem. The peace process, which was started intheAK Party period, should be resolutely maintained without being interrupted, and the influence oftheArmenian diaspora should be decreased by isolating them.

Explanations

[1] We can list the countries recognizing the so-called genocide as: 1982 Southern Cyprus Parliament; 1995 Russia Duma; 25 April 1996 Greece Parliament; 1997 Canada Parliament; 26 March 1998 Belgium Sanate; 24 April 1998 European Council Declaration; 29 April 1998 Australia, New South Wales State; 2000 Vatican; 11 May 2000 Lebanon Parliament; 15 November 2000 European Parliament; 16 November 2000 Italy Parliament; 18 January 2001 France Parliament; 10 December 2001 Switzerland Geneva Canton; 23 September 2002 Switzerland Vaux Canton; 16 December 2003 Switzerland Parliament; 30 October 2002 Britain Wales National Assembly; 18 March 2004 Argentine Parliament; 26 March 2004 Uruguay Parliament ; 30 November 2004 Slovakia Parliament; 5 December 2004 Netherlands Parliament ; 20 April 2005 Poland Parliament; 16 June 2005 Germany Federal Assembly; 12 January 2007 Argentine Parliament; 2005 Venezuela; 2005 Lithuania; 2007 Chile; 2010 Swede Parliament (See., Kumkale, 2007, 38; http://www.armeniangenocide.org/Affirmation.156/current_category)

[2] The approximate Armenian population in EU countries at the beginning of the 1990s was about 550 thousand. Armenians in EU countries are the most in France. Paris, the capital of France where about 450 thousand Armenians live, contains around a 200 thousand Armenian population. Armenians who are 42 thousands in Germany, 20 thousand in Greece, 18 thousand in the UK, and have a total population of 25 thousand in other EU countries. According to the website prepared by the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the total Armenian population in EU countries is about 550 thousand: http://www.armeniadiaspora.com/population/index.html (20.05.2002).

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