Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Franco-Turkish relations hit new low on genocide bill

  • Contemporary map showing Armenian-populated parts of Turkey in blue (Photo: Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen)

Turkey has imposed sanctions against France in reaction to a draft law on the Armenian genocide which could see the Turkish Prime Minister put in prison unless he claimed diplomatic immunity.

The measures comprise a freeze on bilateral meetings on foreign and defence policy; cancelling a ministerial-level meeting on the economy in January 2012; forcing French military jets to seek permission each time they enter Turkish airspace; and a ban on French naval vessels in Turkish ports. Ankara also recalled its ambassador to Paris.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference on Thursday (22 December) said the measures are just the "first phase" of his response.

He called the bill "an irreparable wound" to bilateral relations and accused French leader Nicolas Sarkozy of "racism, discrimination, xenophobia." He added: "There is no such genocide in history. We are proud of our history."

French MPs earlier the same day by a show of hands voted through a bill put forward by Valerie Boyer from Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party.

The draft law - which must be approved by the Senate and signed by Sarkozy before it enters into force - says anybody guilty of making public statements which amount to a "denial or gross trivialisation" of the Armenian genocide or the Holocaust can be put in prison for one year or fined €45,000.

A spokesman for the French parliament told EUobserver that Erdogan's remarks would make him liable for the penalty if he entered France without claiming diplomatic immunity.

He added that if a historian published evidence which cast doubt on the Armenian genocide or if a public figure said they had no firm position on the subject either way, they would also be liable.

For his part, French foreign minister Alain Juppe in a written statement said he "regrets" Erdogan's decision but described Turkey as "an ally and a strategic partner", amid sympathy in the Quai d'Orsay toward Turkey's anger.

France was already unpopular in Turkey due to its public opposition to it ever joining the EU.

Meanwhile, the EU institutions in Brussels are keen to stay out of the affair.

A spokesman for enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele said it is a "bilateral matter." A spokesman for justice commissioner Vivianne Reding noted that while Article 83 of the EU Treaty says member states should harmonise their laws on genocide-denial, an internal legal study found that "at this stage the conditions to use this possibility have not been met."

With EU countries having never agreed a common line on Armenia, the European External Action Service is also gagged from speaking out - posing the question whether its agnosticism would fall foul of the French bill.

'Let's face it ...'

Jewish human rights campaigner Raphael Lemkin coined the word genocide in 1944 with specific reference to the Armenian event in 1915.

The UN General Assembly in a resolution in 1948 defined it as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group."

There is abundant evidence that Turkey's extermination of 1.5 million Armenian men, women and children during World War I meets the criteria. Mass graves, early photos and statements by contemporary soldiers and statesmen, including by Turkish politicians, testify to a planned campaign.

On 19 October 1918 the President of the Turkish senate, Ahmed Riza told the assembly in his inaugural speech: "Let's face it, we Turks savagely killed off the Armenians."

Speaking in an interview with this website prior to the French vote, Turkey's former ambassador to the EU, Selim Kuneralp said he is against the French law because he believes in free speech, whether in the EU or in Turkey.

"History should be left to the historians ... I do not believe what happened can be described as genocide but I believe that if people feel that way they should be able to say it."

Commenting on the French vote, a leading Jewish thinker, Rabbi David Rosen said he believes the Armenian killings are genocide, but added that it "is a matter of legitimate dispute", unlike the Holocaust, with which "no respectable person disagrees."

He added: "I am against laws to condemn people for lying about history ... [But] it seems there should be laws to allow people who are offended by the way others relate to historic events that impinge on their identity and history to pursue legal action, in the same way as in situations of possible defamation."

EU leaders tell Turkey to 'respect' Cyprus

EU leaders are planning to tell Turkey to "fully respect" Cyprus when it takes over the rotating presidency next year after Turkey threatened to boycott meetings.

Free press on trial in EU aspirant Turkey

The trial of 11 journalists - including Turkey's "last investigative reporter" - begins on Tuesday in a country which says it wants to join the EU.

Opinion

The EU and Turkey: steering a safer path through the storms

The EU is currently focused on the turmoil in the Eurozone. That poses severe risks to economic growth across our countries. But these tumultuous economic and political times should not lead to the EU turning its back on its neighbourhood.

Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve

EU countries ought to draw "red lines" for US president Donald Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict, Herman Van Rompuy, the former head of the EU Council, has said.

News in Brief

  1. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  2. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  3. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  4. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  5. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president
  6. UK warns migrants not to cross 'dangerous' Channel
  7. Austria's FPO publishes racist poem
  8. Spanish party leaders spar over Catalonia

EU migrants sneaking into US from Mexico

Almost 1,000 Romanian nationals were caught trying to sneak into the United States in 2017, of which around half attempted to cross via Mexico. Nationals from countries like Hungary and the UK were also intercepted.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Weber vow to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  2. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  3. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  4. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  5. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  6. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  7. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  8. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us