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Turkey: EU Says Ankara Must Come To Terms With Past

Armenians marking the 90th anniversary of the mass killings in April 2005 (ITAR-TASS) BRUSSELS, September 27, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The European Parliament today said it is "indispensable" for Turkey, together with Armenia, to come to terms with its past and reiterated its call for Ankara to acknowledge the mass killings of Armenians of 1915-18 as "genocide."

The parliament toned down its original report, removing a reference to the recognition of the "Armenian genocide" as a "condition" for Turkey's entry into the EU.

The author of the report, Dutch Member of the European Parliament Camiel Eurlings, said it was "indispensable" for Turkey to come to terms with its past.

"Officially, formally, recognition is not a criterion [for accession], which is the truth, but it is indispensable for a country on the road to membership to come to terms with its past," Eurlings said. "So, let the message not be misunderstood. We really urge Turkey, together with Armenia, to get over the past."

The European Parliament said it "reiterates its call on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as called for in previous European Parliament resolutions."

Eurlings said the change in the report was necessary to make it "fairer." He said that formally, recognition of the mass killings as genocide cannot be held to be a criterion for EU entry as no other candidate country has had to recognize it.

The change of wording follows a heated debate in the European Parliament on September 26, in which Turkey’s supporters accused skeptics of using the Armenian issue as a proxy weapon to block Turkey’s accession.

Turkey will need to win the parliament's formal approval of its membership should it successfully negotiate the accession talks it began last year.

The debate in the European Parliament reflects growing concern within the EU that Turkey is dragging its feet over key political reforms.

One particular object of EU ire is Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes offending "Turkishness" a criminal offence. Officials note it was recently used to jail a Turkish-Armenian publisher for publicly referring to the fact that some European countries have recognized the mass killings of Armenians as genocide.

Eurlings today reiterated criticism expressed by many other EU representatives when he said the article runs counter to freedom of expression.

"Article 301 is not in line with the European Convention on Human Rights," Eurlings said. "It is very vaguely formulated, and it will always grant judges and prosecutors [who] don't want a modern Turkey, [who] don't want a Turkey of freedoms, it will grant them the opportunity to indict people for a nonviolent expression of opinion."

The European Commission will release its own report on Turkey on November 8, expected to criticize slow reforms and continued tensions with EU member Cyprus.

However, officials in Brussels say they hope Turkey's entry talks can continue.

Examining History

Examining History

CALL IT GENOCIDE? Questions surrounding the mass killings of Armenians at the beginning of the last century continue to dominate relations between Armenia and Turkey. In April, Ankara proposed conducting a joint Armenian-Turkish investigation into the mass killings and deportations of Armenians during World War I.
Turkish leaders suggested that the two countries set up a joint commission of historians to determine whether the massacres carried out between 1915 and 1917 constituted genocide. Armenia, however, insisted it would continue to seek international recognition and condemnation of what it says was a deliberate attempt at exterminating an entire people....(more)

See also:

Armenians Mark 90th Anniversary Of Start Of Massacres

Armenia: Tragedy Remains On Europe’s Political Map

ARCHIVE: For a complete archive of RFE/RL's coverage of Armenia, click here.

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