The European Parliament is the decision making body of the European Union. Armenia is currently in talks with European Union to create an EU Association Agreement. This agreement would entitle the country to a permanent free trade regime with the EU and facilitate visa procedures for its citizens traveling to Europe. As a part of the Association Agreement, on June 19, 2012 Armenia began talks with the EU to create and join a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU. Those talks ended in failure as Armenia joint the incompatible Eurasian Economic Union founded by Russia, just when it was supposed to sign the DCTA. In December 2015, the EU started talks with Armenia for a Comprehensive Accord which would include all the components of the DCTA that were not incompatible with Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
Armenia, EU To Discuss New Formats Of Cooperation
Armenian and European Union officials will meet soon to try to work out a new legal framework for bilateral relations that would not contradict Armenia’s upcoming membership in a Russian-led alliance, officials said on Wednesday.
According to Traian Hristea, the head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, the two sides are planning “brainstorming” sessions on new formats of their cooperation in the new geopolitical environment.
“The discussions are in the preparatory stage, and we are working with our Armenian partners,” Hristea told reporters. “Very soon we will have a bilateral meeting aimed at preparing a new package of proposals.”
The EU official declined to give concrete dates for such talks. “I think the most important thing will be their substance, rather than the deadline,” he said.
Armenia’s First Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonian confirmed that Yerevan and Brussels are trying to chart a new course one year after the collapse of an Association Agreement negotiated by them. He said they will open talks on the matter by the end of this year.
“Without going into details at this point, I will just note that we will work and hold discussions in this regard in the coming months,” Melkonian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “I think we will clarify the areas where we will continue our joint work.”
The vice-minister, who was personally involved in three-year negotiations on the Association Agreement, did not deny that the Armenian government hopes to complete its accession to the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) before proposing concrete deals to the EU.
“I would not link the two things so directly,” he said. “But in a sense it is possible to see a connection. Why? Because there are some areas and directions where we are trying to see what prospects and formats of future cooperation can be identified.”
A spokesman for the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele told RFE/RL last week that Yerevan should detail its “new obligations stemming from membership” in the ex-Soviet bloc before it can negotiate new accords with the EU. “Whenever our [Armenian] partners are ready to give us ideas on how they want to proceed with us we will be ready to respond,” he said.
President Serzh Sarkisian precluded the signing of the wide-ranging association deal with the EU in September 2013 when he announced his unexpected decision to make Armenia part of the union comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area
The DCFTA envisages not only mutual lifting of all trade barriers but also harmonization of Armenian economic laws and regulations with those existing in the EU. Garegin Melkonian, a deputy minister of economy who led the Armenian side at the subcommittee meeting, emphasized this fact.
Armenia, EU Launch Association Talks
19.07.2010 Ruben Meloyan
Armenia began on Monday the first round of negotiations with the European Union over an “association agreement” that would significantly upgrade its political and economic ties with the bloc.
The agreement stemming from the EU’s Eastern Partnership program for six former Soviet republics, including neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia, would entitle the country to a permanent free trade regime with the EU and facilitate visa procedures for its citizens traveling to Europe. It also envisages a harmonization of Armenian laws, regulations and government policies with the EU standards.
“This is an ambitious, far-reaching agreement,” Gunnar Wiegand, the head of an EU negotiating team for Armenia, told journalists in Yerevan. “This will have a lasting effect on the way this country organizes its economy and the way we drive forward the reform process together in order to get Armenia ever closer to the European Union.”
The chief Armenian negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Karine Kazinian, confirmed that the negotiating process will take years. “We have already identified the areas from which we will start, and it is difficult to stay how long the process will take: three years, four years or five years,” Kazinian told a joint news conference with Wiegand.
“But the important thing is that negotiations have started and we are prepared for that path,” she said. “We are also ready to make every effort to follow the guidelines that we have with the EU and bring the process to a successful end.”
Wiegand also declined to speculate about time frames for signing the agreement. “This is ambitious, and ambition needs time in order to get things right,” he said. “We would certainly be wrong now to fix an artificial deadline. We want to get a good agreement with lasting effects for all citizens.”
Separate teams of EU negotiators launched similar talks with the Georgian and Azerbaijani governments late last week. In a statement issued ahead of the talks, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief expressed confidence that the association agreements “will be a catalyst to the domestic reforms” in all three South Caucasus states.
In Armenia, the association talks are expected to run parallel to a reform of state agencies, most of them dealing with external trade and immigration, as well as changes in various Armenian laws. The EU’s executive European Commission has already earmarked at least 32 million euros ($40 million) for financing those reforms.
Democratization, human rights protection and a stronger rule of law are another stated condition for Armenia’s participation in the Eastern Partnership. Yet just how aggressively the bloc plans to press for political reforms in the country is still an open question.
Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service, Wiegand insisted that the EU will closely monitor political developments in the country and the Armenian authorities’ respect for human rights. He dismissed claims by local opposition politicians that the EU has been lenient towards President Serzh Sarkisian’s government because of his Western-backed policies on Turkey and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“We look at the democratic standards and human rights separately from the manifold regional and foreign policy challenges which Armenia has,” the EU official said.
An EU policy paper on Armenia released earlier this year underlined the need for an “improved quality of the electoral process and administration in line with international standards.”
A senior European Commission official dealing with the Eastern Partnership told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in May that this means the next Armenian presidential and parliamentary elections should “definitely” be more democratic than the previous ones. The EU has not officially made such a linkage, though.
Armenia, EU To Start Delayed Talks On Joint Action Plan
By Anna Saghabalian
The European Union will open negotiations with Armenia within one month on concrete actions stemming from its inclusion in a program envisaging privileged ties with the bloc, a senior EU envoy said on Thursday.
The talks on the `action plan' for Armenia within the framework of the EU's European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) were scheduled to start earlier this month but were put off indefinitely. Heikki Talvitie, the EU's special representative to the South Caucasus, revealed that the delay was caused by a dispute between Azerbaijan and `one EU country,' presumably Cyprus.
The internationally recognized government of Cyprus is angry at Baku's recent decision to establish direct contacts with the Turkish-occupied north of the island. Official Nicosia is reportedly blocking the start of talks on a similar action plan for Azerbaijan, which was also included in the ENP along with Georgia last year.
Talvitie, in Yerevan on yet another tour of the region, explained that the Azerbaijani-Cypriot dispute has affected Armenia and Georgia because the EU wanted to show a `balanced approach' and start the ENP talks with the three South Caucasus states simultaneously. `We have one month settle the problem and start consultations simultaneously with the three countries,' he said. `If we fail to resolve it, we will start consultations with those countries that are ready [for the process].'
`Armenia has really done a good job preparing for this process,' the diplomat added. `We are confident that we can implement a good action plan with Armenia.'
The plan is expected to be based on a report which was released by the EU's executive European Commission in March. The 30-page document calls for democratic elections, the rule of law, respect for human rights, anti-corruption measures as well as further economic reforms in Armenia.
The issue featured large during Talvitie's meetings on Thursday with President Robert Kocharian and Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian. The latter said over the weekend that the ENP `brings Armenia back home.'
Speaking at a joint news conference with Oskanian, Talvitie reaffirmed EU support for Kocharian's package of amendments to the Armenian constitution which is due to be put to a referendum in November. `We do not want to take part in your referendum, but we support these changes and think they would be a very serious tool in the hands of both the government and the opposition,' he said.
The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda of the talks. Talvitie arrived in Yerevan from Baku where he discussed the issue with Azerbaijani leaders. The envoy urged the conflicting parties to build on progress in the peace process made over the past year.
`The overall evaluation is that there is a momentum for a settlement of the problem,' Oskanian said for his part. `There are positive changes and today our main task is to be able to use this opportunity and achieve more progress in the process after the [November] parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan.'
EU, Armenia Agree Free Trade Deal
Հրապարակված է՝ 24.07.2013 The European Union and Armenia cleared what appears to be the final hurdle to the Association Agreement between them when they successfully concluded yearlong free trade negotiations in Yerevan on Wednesday.
The EU’s executive body, the European Commission, announced that the two sides worked out “the key elements” of a deal on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) that will be the most significant component of the landmark agreement.
“The DCFTA will strengthen Armenia's economic integration with the EU by providing better market access for European and Armenian goods and services to each other's markets,” the commission said in a statement. “It will offer Armenia a framework for modernizing its trade relations and for economic development on the basis of far reaching harmonization of laws and regulations in various trade-related sectors.”
“These reforms will create the conditions for Armenia to bring key sectors of its economy in line with EU standards,” added the statement.
Armenian and EU negotiators drafted virtually all other chapters of the Association Agreement earlier this year. The announced conclusion of the separate DCFTA talks puts Yerevan and Brussels firmly on course to finalize the entire agreement during an EU summit slated for November. The EU also plans to initial similar accords with Georgia and Moldova during the summit that will take place in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius.
The DCFTA deal, reached after seven rounds of negotiations, is a further indication that Armenia will not seek to join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which Moscow hopes will eventually evolve into a broader Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states. EU officials have repeatedly stated that membership in the customs union is “not compatible” with the DCFTA.
The DCFTA envisages not only removal of trade barriers but also harmonization of Armenia’s entire economic legislation with EU laws and regulations. The authorities in Yerevan will thus have to embark on extensive legislative reforms.
“Regulatory reform will focus on areas such as sanitary and phytosanitary issues, aiming to bring food safety standards in Armenia up to a par with those in the EU,” the European Commission said. “Armenia will also adapt various laws relating to industrial goods, with an emphasis on domestic safety and consumer protection.”
Armenia has already enjoyed in recent years a preferential trading regime with EU member states through the EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) covering some developing nations. The arrangement has entitled Armenian companies to selling virtually all products in the European market with significant discounts on import duty or no duty at all.
The EU is Armenia’s leading trading partner, accounting for roughly one third of the South Caucasus state’s external commercial exchange. Armenia imported $1.13 billion worth of goods from EU countries last year. Armenian exports to the EU, most of them non-ferrous metals and ore concentrates, totaled $560 million, according to Armenian government data.
The European Commission expects the DCFTA to have “significant impacts” on Armenia’s foreign trade. “An independent study suggests that in the long run the Armenian economy could gain an extra 146 million euros ($190 million) a year, representing a 2.3 percent increase in GDP,” said the commission statement.
Yerevan sought a number of EU concessions during the previous round of DCFTA talks held in April. In particular, it asked Brussels to allow Armenia to continue levying import duties from some European agricultural products and prepared foodstuffs for several years after the creation of the free trade zone. It is not yet clear whether the EU has agreed to this.
The Armenian government made no statements on the completion of DCFTA talks on Wednesday.
Another European Resolution Backs Armenian Genocide Recognition
A parliamentary body representing the European Union’s member and partner states on Tuesday called for greater international recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide and urged Turkey to “come to terms with its past.”
In a resolution adopted during a session in Yerevan, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly said “the absence of unequivocal and timely condemnation of the Armenian Genocide largely contributed to the failure to prevent future crimes against humanity.”
Therefore, it said, “prevention of genocides and crimes against humanity should be amongst the priorities of the international community.”The world should also strive for “the restoration of the rights of people subjected to genocide,” added the assembly bringing together members of the European Parliament and legislatures of ex-Soviet states involved in the EU’s Eastern Partnership program.
The resolution further “deeply deplores” attempts to deny the World War One-era slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenians in Ottoman Turkey and other genocides. In that regard, it “invites Turkey to come to term with its past.”
The Euronest text was adopted less than a week after the European Parliament reaffirmed its recognition of the Armenian genocide in an annual report on human rights practices around the world. It urged all EU member states to do the same.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry rejected the EU legislature’s appeal, saying that it is “utterly devoid of historical reality and legal basis.”
“We find these assertions in all respects extremely problematic and regret them deeply,” the ministry spokesman, Tanju Bilgic, said in a weekend statement. “The report interprets a certain period of the Ottoman Empire, which was tragic for all the people of the Empire, one-sidedly and with a sense of selective justice.”
EU Lawmakers Insist On Turkish Recognition Of Armenian Genocide
By Emil Danielyan 5, September 2006
A key committee of the European Parliament insisted late Monday that recognition of the Armenian genocide must be a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union and urged Ankara to normalize relations with Yerevan.
In a report adopted by 53 votes in favor to 6 against with 8 abstentions, the Committee on Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the EU assembly’s earlier resolutions that described the 1915-1918 mass killings and deportations of Armenians in the Ottoman Turkey as genocide.
The committee condemned as “racist and xenophobic” a government-connected group that rallied thousands of nationalist Turks in France and Germany last spring to protest against a growing number of European countries recognizing the genocide. It urged Ankara to ban the group named after Talaat Pasha, one of the three top leaders of Ottoman Turkey’s last government whom historians regard as the main mastermind of the massacres.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the EU parliamentarians’ demands on Tuesday. "We announced this before. That is, to expect us to change (our stance) is simply chasing a dream," state news agency Anatolian quoted Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as saying, according to Reuters.
"Our decisiveness on the subject of the so-called Armenian genocide is the same today as it was in the past. Nobody should expect us to change this," Erdogan said, adding the decisions taken by the European Parliament are not binding.
"We are dismayed by efforts aiming to impose preconditions that are far from objective on questions that require serious academic inquiry," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a communique.
The Turkish government has rejected similar resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in the past. The most recent of those resolutions, passed in September 2005, said Turkish recognition of the genocide is a “prerequisite for accession to the European Union.”
The latest report, which deplores Turkey’s lack of progress in implementing reforms needed to join the EU, is due to be debated by the full European Parliament later this year. It calls on Turkey to drop its preconditions for opening the land border and establishing diplomatic relations with Armenia.
The European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy, a Brussels-based lobbying group, welcomed the proposed resolution. “We congratulate the rapporteur and the many members of Parliament who reaffirmed the political line of the Parliament, which makes the recognition of the Genocide a prerequisite for accession," its chairwoman, Hilda Tchoboian, said in a statement.
Still, Tchoboian disagreed with another provision of the report that effectively endorses Ankara’s proposal to set up a commission of Turkish and Armenian historians that would study the events of 1915-1918.
The proposal, made by Erdogan last year, was rejected by Armenia. In a written response to the Turkish premier, President Robert Kocharian said that this and other issues hampering a Turkish-Armenian rapprochement should be tackled by the two governments, rather than historians.
EU Parliament Insists On Armenian Genocide Recognition By Turkey
By Emil Danielyan 09/28/2005
The European Parliament reiterated on Wednesday that Turkey's accession to the European Union must be conditional, among other things, on its recognition of the 1915-1918 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
The EU legislature adopted by 356 votes in favor, 181 against and 125 abstentions a resolution that `calls on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide' and `considers this recognition to be a prerequisite for accession to the European Union.'
The resolution, which also demands that Ankara recognize Cyprus, came ahead of membership talks between the EU and Turkey that are due to open on Monday. It is not binding for the 25-nation bloc's executive European Commission and member governments. But it does reflect growing unease about the prospect of a large Muslim country joining the EU.
It is not the first time that the European Parliament urges Turkey to end its long-running denial of the Armenian genocide. All of its previous genocide resolutions were angrily condemned by Ankara.
"That resolution is not binding,' Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, reacting to its passage later on Wednesday. `It does not matter whether they took such a decision or not. We will continue on our way,' private CNN-Turk television quoted him as saying during a visit to Abu Dhabi.
But the European Armenian Federation, a Brussels-based lobbying group, was quick to welcome the Strasbourg-based parliament's statement. `This latest appeal by the European Parliament ahead of the negotiations with Turkey must serve as a guideline for the European Council and the European Commission,' its chairman, Hilda Tchoboian, said in a statement.
`We therefore call on the EU foreign ministers to touch upon the genocide issue during their meeting in Luxembourg on October 3,' she added.
Of all the EU member states only France has so far demanded that genocide recognition be a necessary condition for Turkish entry into the EU. President Jacques Chirac expressed hope last December that the Turks will do some `memory work' on the subject. But other EU officials have made it clear that while genocide recognition could be on the agenda of the upcoming accession talks it will not be a precondition for their successful outcome.
Federation of Armenian Organizations in The Netherlands (FAON)
April 24 Committee For Recognition and Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide of 1915
Address: Weesperstraat 91 - 2574 VS Den Haag
Tel. 070 4490209
Contact: M. Hakhverdian
A report by I. Drost of the meeting of Standing Committee on European and Foreign Affairs of the Dutch parliament with the minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ben Bot on the meeting of European Foreign Ministers beginning of September, where the EU negotiation framework with Turkey will be discussed. At this meeting Mr. Bot declared that the negotiation framework for Turkey includes Armenian Genocide issue.
Bot: Negotiation Framework for Turkey includes Armenian genocide
The Hague, 1 September 2005 - Yesterday, in a Parliament meeting, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot assured the members of parliament that the matter of the Armenian genocide is already a part of the framework for negotiations with Turkey.
Mr. Bot said so in reaction to the urgent request of several factions to adopt the recognition of the Armenian genocide in the negotiation framework. In this context he referred to the commitment of good neighbourly relations and undertaking to resolve any outstanding border disputes in a peaceful settlement, as mentioned in the draft negotiation framework.
On Chritian Union MP Rouvoet's explicit question if he understood correctly that facing the own history and in particular the Armenian Genocide are also meant in this wording, Mr. Bot answered in the affirmative. He also confirmed that this is the European approach of this matter and that Turkey is very much aware of this requirement.
Mr Bot did not expect any problems, like we have now with Cyprus, as a result of the implicit wording, because it is the standing approach within EU and EU itself is master of the ratification process. Finally, the Minister gave the guarantee that he himself will always be committed to these statements.
Armenia Lauds Genocide Resolution By EU Parliament
By Anna Saghabalian
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian commended the European Parliament on Thursday for its renewed calls for Turkey to recognize the 1915 massacres of Armenians as genocide and normalize relations with Armenia.
A resolution adopted by the EU legislature in Strasbourg on Wednesday `calls on Turkey to recognize the Armenian genocide' and `considers this recognition to be a prerequisite for accession to the European Union.' It also urges Turkey to open its border with Armenia without preconditions.
`We assess that resolution positively and consider it natural,' said Oskanian. `If Turkey wants to be a member of the European Union, it must behave like an EU country. That means it must have open borders with Armenia and openly confront its past and accept what happened in 1915.'
Ankara's reaction to the non-binding resolution was diametrically opposite, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that it will not affect his government's position on the issue. Turkey is expected to start its long-awaited accession talks with the EU on Monday.
Yerevan wants the EU make Turkey's membership conditional on the recognition of the Armenian genocide and the lifting of the blockade imposed on Armenia in 1993. But EU officials say while the Armenian demands will be on the agenda of the accession talks, they are not a precondition for Turkish entry into the union.
EU-Turkey & The Armenian Genocide
EU-TURKEY & THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE - PART I Written by Dr Harry Hagopian
Newropeans Magazine, France Oct 24 2005
Audere est Facere!
Calls on Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide; considers this recognition to be a pre-requisite for accession to the European Union; European Parliament Resolution (28 September 2005).
Across much of Europe, the last ten months have been buzzing with discussions about the Armenian Genocide. This is not solely because Armenians worldwide have been commemorating in 2005 the 90th anniversary of the genocide. Nor is it necessarily because this gruesome chapter in early 20th century history awoke the collective conscience of the world toward recognition. Rather, it is largely due to the ongoing negotiations regarding Turkey's accession to the EU.
It is inevitable that Armenians, and their supporters across the Union, have been pressuring Turkey to come clean on the chapter of their history that deals with the 'Armenian Question' during WWI, and have repeatedly requested from their governments to include the recognition of the genocide as a precondition in their discussions for Turkish accession to the EU. Consequently, this Armenian position has become congruent with that of the European Parliament as evidenced by its latest Resolution of 28th September in Strasbourg.
On 3 October 2005, the EU and Turkey finally signed a negotiating framework that would allow formal talks and screening processes to begin on Turkish membership of the European Club. There was the obligatory last-minute brinkmanship, with Austria demanding the insertion of an additional clause that referred to privileged partnership rather than full membership. However, this objection was overcome with a Croatian compromise, and the question now is to explore what happens in the next ten to fifteen years when negotiations between the EU and Turkey cover the 35 chapters (including judiciary and fundamental rights as well as justice, freedom and security, in chapters 23 & 24 respectively) and Turkey's need to adapt its political, economic and social system in such a manner that it implements 80,000 pages of EU laws. This, after all, is the EU-Turkey political dossier today, and the critical period in the years ahead will decide between an EU that insists upon the candidate country Turkey to accept the acquis comminautaire of the Union or a Turkey that dictates more or less its own terms of accession to the EU.
Principle 6 of the EU Negotiating Framework for Turkey clearly stipulates that the advancement of negotiations will be guided by Turkey's progress in preparing for accession. Such progress would include the Copenhagen criteria (with the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities) as much as Turkey's 'unequivocal commitment to good neighbourly relations and its undertaking to resolve any outstanding border disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, including if necessary jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice'. Olli Rehn, European Commissioner for Enlargement, told the European Parliament earlier that "the start of the negotiations will give a strong push for those in Turkey who want to reform the country to meet the European values of rule of law and human rights; they are also a way for the EU to have leverage on the direction of these reforms".
But let me recap for a moment. On 22nd September, I attended a conference in Brussels entitled December 2004-October 2005: Has Turkey changed? During the final plenary session, the discussions led to the unavoidable conclusion that the EU Commission was doing its utmost to justify the start of accession talks despite an implicit admission that Turkey had not yet met all the criteria for the start-up of negotiations. This EU position could prove disconcerting if it were to accentuate the yawning chasm between the political decisions adopted by the EU institutions (namely the Commission and Council) and the European population across the whole Union. After all, a recent Eurobarometer poll revealed that only 35% of EU citizens support Turkish membership, and yet the EU institutions are not heeding to the concerns of their constituencies but are proving why the 'disconnect' is growing alarmingly larger between an institutional and bureaucratic Union and its peoples. In fact, this phenomenon became abundantly evident when France and the Netherlands rejected the EU draft constitution on 29 May and 1 June 2005 respectively as an instrument - with much merit, I still maintain - that was nonetheless being imposed upon the European peoples without adequate consultation, coherence, transparency or feedback. (To be continued 25/10/05)
EU-TURKEY & THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE - PART II Written by Dr Harry Hagopian
Newropeans Magazine, France Oct 25 2005
Calls on Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide; considers this recognition to be a pre-requisite for accession to the European Union; European Parliament Resolution (28 September 2005).
II. But what about the Armenian Genocide in the overall context of EU-Turkey dossier?
There have been quite a few developments within Turkey that have highlighted the inherent paradoxes of the Turkish mindset on this human rights issue. There has also been a tug-of-war between progressives and reactionaries on the one hand, and between the small minority of Turks openly addressing the issue of the genocide and an ignorant or fearful majority who maintain the denial that has typified Turkey for the past 90 years.
One of the most prominent issues in the past few months that highlights Turkey's non-EU credentials to date as much as its paranoia about the Armenian Genocide, is the case of Orhan Pamuk, one of Turkey's most acclaimed contemporary writers. On 1st September, a district prosecutor indicted Pamuk under Article 301(1) of the Turkish penal code for having 'blatantly belittled Turkishness" by his "denigrating" remarks. Pamuk's crime was to have given an interview in the Swiss Tages Anzeiger newspaper on 6th February stating that Turkey was responsible for the deaths of 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds during WWI but that nobody within the country dared speak about this genocide. If convicted at his trial that starts on 16th December, Pamuk could well face up to three years in gaol. Article 301/1 of the Turkish penal code states that 'a person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to three years ... Where insulting being a Turk is committed by a Turkish citizen in a foreign country, the penalty shall be increased by one third'.
This case came almost at the same time as that of Hrant Dink, editor of the bilingual Agos magazine who received a suspended six-month sentence in Istanbul on 7th October for writing a column that allegedly insulted Turkey, and for telling an audience in 2002 that he was not a Turk but an Armenian of Turkey. According to PEN International, fifty writers, journalists and publishers currently face trials in Turkey. The International Publishers' Association, in its deposition to the UN, has also described the revised Turkish penal code as being 'deeply flawed'. It is questionable how a country such as Turkey that has ratified both the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) could flout the fundamental freedom of expression and continue to enforce a penal code that is contrary to such universal and EU-friendly principles. No wonder therefore that Fethiye Cetin, Dink's lawyer, averred that the ruling against her client showed how little had changed under Turkey's new criminal code, despite international and internal pressures.
With those Turkish manoeuvres, Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink have joined a long list of cognoscenti and literati such as Kemal Tahir and Fakir Baykurt who have been muzzled by the state for expressing their viewpoints. Numerous international bodies, such as the Commissioners of the US Helsinki Commission, have sent letters to the Turkish Prime Minister calling upon him to authorise the dropping of charges against the writer. In an Opinion in the Turkish Daily News, Semih Ydyz wrote critically, "Anti-EU forces that are using the legal system to bound people like Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink may believe they are doing a great service to the country. They don't realise, however, that they are doing the opposite ... They are exposing the outmoded system of thought for what it is and forcing progressive Turks to rally around principles like respect for freedom of thought".
This Turkish imbedded sense of nationalism, dissimilar to patriotism, was manifested again in the deferrals of an international conference entitled Ottoman Armenians in the Period of the Collapse of the Empire: Issues of Scientific Responsibility and Democracy. Many people, from the Turkish Minister of Justice to a lawyer from one of the districts of Istanbul, tried twice to cancel this conference.
However, it finally took place at Bilgi University in Istanbul on 24th September. As the Economist wrote in an article entitled Too soon for Turkish delight on 29th September, "For Turks who want a European future, there was a dollop of hope last weekend, when brave historians managed to hold a conference in Istanbul to discuss the fate of the Ottoman Armenians. It was the first time Turkish pundits were permitted to challenge publicly the official line, holding that the mass deportation of Armenians in 1915 did not amount to a conspiracy to kill them. As participants read out letters between the 'Young Turks' then ruling the empire, a rapt audience was left with no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deliberately slain". In the words of Halil Berktay, coordinator of the history department at Sabanci University and participant at the conference, 'This is a country of more than 70 million, with a strong nationalist past; there are strong forces opposed to the European Union, to democracy and opening up'. Berktay added that 'the question of what happened in 1915-1916 is not a mystery, it's not like we know just 5 percent, so the question is not finding more evidence. The question is liberating scholarship from the nationalist taboos ...'
Fatma Muge Gocek, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and advisor to the conference, said that 'Turkey has to confront its history, and the fact of the violence of 1915 and 1916, and lack of accountability, sanctioned more [state] violence'. Equally, Elif Shafak, a social scientist and renowned novelist whose works include The Flea Palace and who recently captured the cultural voices of Turkey in Street of the Cauldron Makers (Kazanci Yokushu), published an editorial in the Washington Post on 25th September entitled In Istanbul, a Crack in the Wall of Denial. She wrote, "I also got to know other Turks who were making a similar intellectual journey.
Obviously there is still a powerful segment of Turkish society that completely rejects the charge that Armenians were purposely exterminated. Some even go so far as to claim that it was Armenians who killed Turks, and so there is nothing to apologise for. These nationalist hardliners include many of our government officials, bureaucrats, diplomats and newspaper columnists. They dominate Turkey's public image - but theirs is only one position held by Turkish citizens, and it is not even the most common one. The prevailing attitude of ordinary people toward the 'Armenian question' is not one of conscious denial; rather it is collective ignorance.
These Turks feel little need to question the past as long as it does not affect their daily lives". Shafak concluded her editorial about the conference, "Whatever happens with the conference, I believe one thing remains true: Through the collective efforts of academics, journalists, writers and media correspondents, 1915 is being opened to discussion in my homeland [Turkey] as never before. The process is not an easy one and will disturb many vested interests. I know how hard it is - most children from diplomatic families, confronting negative images of Turkey abroad, develop a sort of defensive nationalism, and it's especially true among those of us who lived through the years of Armenian terrorism. But I also know that the journey from denial to recognition is one that can be made".
As Begle, another Turkish historian and a contemporary of Selim Beligir, opined much along the same lines during the conference in Istanbul, "The younger generation in Turkey knows nothing about the events in the early 20th century and the reason is the educational system.  The Armenian Question is one of the darkest pages of our history, and naturally no one wants to admit it. People who want to revisit and discuss the problem gave gathered in this university".
Another speaker at the conference, historian Fikret Adanir, stated outright that the killings constituted genocide whilst Cengiz Candar, a prominent columnist for the Bugun newspaper in Turkey wrote, "The judiciary is one of the most reactionary and backward institutions in Turkey, and the illegal [court] verdi
EUROPEAN ARMENIAN FEDERATION
for Justice & Democracy Avenue de la Renaissance 10 B-1000 Bruxelles Tel: +322 732 70 26 Tel/Fax:+322 732 70 27 Email: email@example.com
PRESS RELEASE For immediate release October 26th, 2005 Contact :Talline Tachdjian Tel :+322 732 70 26
EUROPEAN COMMISSION TAKES UNPRECEDENTED STEP OF CALLING ON TURKEY TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
-- Request Represents the First Time the Commission has Directly Pressed Ankara to end its Campaign of Armenian Genocide Denial --
Brussels, Belgium (26 October 2005) - In an unprecedented move welcomed by the European Armenian Federation, the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has directly called upon Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
During a recent speech at Harvard University (United States), Mr. Barroso stressed that, "We should bear in mind that Turkey is an important state and has great potential from the viewpoint of the social and economic future of Europe. However the problem of Kurds and national minorities still remains a very delicate matter for Turkey. National minorities in Turkey constantly face infringement of their human rights."
In his remarks about European relations with Turkey, Mr Barroso stated that Ankara is developing relations with Greece and should adopt a similarly constructive approach toward Armenia. He explained that, "Turks should acknowledge the reality of the Armenian Genocide. Orhan Pamuk's case is an inadmissible step from the standpoint of freedom of speech. Turkey should refrain from simplified attitude towards the Armenian issue. Europeans dislike the words 'there was no Genocide.' Ankara's best move would be the acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide and opening the borders with Armenia."
"We welcome the unprecedented statement by Mr. Barroso as both a reflection of true European values and a return to a principled approach on the part of the European Commission and the European Union. With this declaration by the Commission's president, the three main bodies of the E.U. - the Parliament, Commission and Council - have all taken a common stand - a firm position that can no longer be ignored by Turkey," said Hilda Tchoboian, chairwoman of the European Armenian Federation.
"We expect that this renewed determination on the part of European institutions will impress upon Turkey that regional peace and stability requires that Turkey come to terms with its responsibilities for the Armenian Genocide," she continued. "As a next step, we will work toward the Commission incorporating these demands into the relevant chapters of the Acquis and into screening procedure for Turkey's EU application," concluded Tchoboian.