by Rouben Safrastyan
On October 3, 2005, the EU member states after long, often confidential discussions and numerous contradictory public statements decided in Luxemburg to start negotiations on Turkey’s membership in the European Union. The final text of the framework document approved both by the EU and Turkey has already been published. The document formulates common principles on the basis of which the negotiations will be held; there is also a list of concrete problems to be discussed by the parties.
The EU-Turkey relations are important for Armenia, because the European integration was declared as one of the basic strategic goals of our country. In addition, many Armenians hope that the European Union would exert pressure on Turkey during the talks to give up its “policy of coercion” with regard to Armenia, to open the border with Armenia and recognize the Genocide of Armenians.
Meanwhile, inside Turkey the attitude to its EU membership is far from being absolute positive. Usually they point out that according to polls three quarters of the population support that idea. However, recently other data have been published showing that only a little more than a half of the population now prefer Turkey’s membership in that organization. These data allow to speak about some split inside the Turkish society on that issue.
Even the army, which has been supported all Western initiatives, is not unanimous in this issue. Its leadership is afraid that becoming the EU member Turkey will have to limit the dominating role of the military in the political life of the country; in addition, using force against the Kurdish rebels will be forbidden to the army.
The split on that issue is inside the ruling pro-Islamist Justice and Development Party (JDP), the leaders of which tare tying up their political future with positive decisions on Turkey’s EU membership. On October 3, 2005, when Foreign Ministers of the EU member states discussed in quite tense situation the variants of the above-mentioned framework document, no less tense situation was during the meeting of the Turkish Prime-Minister and at the same time the JDP leader R.T. Erdoghan with a group of influential members of his party, many of whom threatened to leave it, if Turkey agrees to start talk on the basis of the principles, mentioned in the framework document. They believe that in case of Turkey’s membership in the EU the Muslim Turkey will fall under the influence of the Christian Europe. Only using his rich experience and political flexibility, Erdoghan had managed to save the party from the split.
Among the other influential political forces of the country, the People’s Republican Party, representing Kemalists is also against the start of the talks on the basis of the document, and the extreme nationalist pan-Turkist Party of the National Movement and extremely Islamist Party of Happiness are categorically against accession into the EU. The negative approach of the nationalists to the mentioned issue is based on the fear that Kurds, using the democratic reforms, required by the EU, would create some prerequisites for secession of Kurdistan from Turkey. They do not rule out that EU might exert pressure on Turkey also in the Armenian issue, forcing to make unilateral concessions.
Both the military top leadership and the nationalists are categorically against any concessions in the Cyprus issue. They think that Turkish forces should remain on the Northern part of the island, as far as doing so Turkey guarantees its dominating role in the Eastern Mediterranean.
However, those circles of the Turkish capital, who have already merged with the European capital, are ardent supporters of Turkey’s membership in the EU. There are also many supporters of that idea among wide circles of the population, hoping that they will get opportunity to live and work in Europe.
At present the situation in Turkey shows that the concept of the unitary state and society, which had been put forward by Kemalists, is now fading and the European integration accelerates that process.
The interests of Armenia, taking into account the above, require that Turkey should recognize the Genocide, open the border with Armenia, and in general, give up its “policy of coercion” and hold the course of normalization of relations with Armenia – all that to be done before Turkey’s accession to the EU.
It seems that Armenian and EU interests on Turkey coincide. And indeed, the leaders of the EU member states, representatives of many international structures, have made many appropriate statements: the European Parliament adopted resolutions, condemning Turkey. However, the framework document, defining the course of the talks EU–Turkey, lacks any point, having direct reference to Armenia. Only the provision, requiring from Turkey to settle relations with its neighbor, can have some importance from that point of view. Using it, the European Union can demand that Turkey start normalizing its relations with Armenia.
It is easy to suppose that Turkey, using the fact that the document lacks a concrete mentioning of Armenia, will resist as much as it can any possible inclusion of appropriate questions into the agenda of the talks. However, a separate section in the document is dedicated to the Cyprus problem.
The analysis of the document shows that the EU does not see the task of normalization of the Turkish-Armenian relations as priority.
It will be interesting to make a parallel with the diplomatic activity on the Armenian question of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. It is necessary to admit that from the purely formal point of view the situation in that period was more favorable for the Armenian people, as far as the need of settlement of the Armenian issue, even in actually distorted manner – in the form of recognition of conducting limited reforms in the Western Armenia by the Ottoman Government, – and not granting the Armenian people the right to self-determination or at least autonomy on the territory of its historical homeland was reflected in some international legal documents: from the San-Stefano and Berlin treaties, signed by the representatives of the Ottoman Empire.
At present there is no any international legal document to have Turkey’s signature that could serve a basis for direct obligations on normalization of relations with Armenia. Unfortunately, the statements of the European leaders have not been reflected on the above-mentioned document, which in fact is a list of EU demands to Turkey, while the resolutions of the European Parliament have only the force of recommendations for the EU member states.
However, currently the Armenian people has a principal advantage to compare with their predecessors. It is the existence of independent Republic of Armenia, which allows pursuing the policy in the international on qualitatively different level. If we add the well-organized and consistently acting Diaspora, then it is possible to expect that in case of appropriate well-weighed actions and flexibility, as well as fruitful preliminary work, the Armenian demands to Turkey can be made a part of the EU demands toward that country.
The probability of realization of that goal seems not so high. But there are at least ten years ahead, because it is the least possible term for the EU-Turkey talks, and it is a short period. Its alternative is – an attempt to settle the problems with Turkey by means of bilateral negotiations, as we think, can lead only to impasse, as long as the top leadership of that state does not show any willingness to change its tough position as regards to Armenia, based on the “policy of coercion”
October 31, 2005