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      Armenians Should Squeeze Concessions

Armenians Should Squeeze Concessions   13/10/2005

Armenians Should Squeeze Concessions
Out of Turkey During EU Negotiations

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

Turkey finally embarked on a journey that it had been anxiously awaiting for
more than 40 years. The long and arduous negotiations for Turkey’s
membership in the European Union officially started last week and are
expected to last 10 or more years.

Armenians are of two minds over the benefits of Turkey joining the EU. Some
of them are of the opinion that Armenia is better off if its old nemesis is
kept under check by EU’s strict code of conduct. Armenians in this camp
believe that a “civilized Turkey” is more apt to recognize the Armenian
Genocide, lift its blockade of Armenia, and conduct peaceful relations with
its neighbors.

Other Armenians believe that Turkey is simply going through the motions of
transforming itself, without having any honest intentions of doing so.
Besides, these Armenians believe that there are no guarantees that “an
enlightened Turkey” would be more inclined to recognize the Genocide. Turkey
could well become an EU member, and like Britain, still refuse to
acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Even worse, should Turkey not change its
denialist policy after joining the EU, Armenians would be deprived of
whatever clout they may have had in creating obstacles for its EU
membership. Furthermore, Turkey would have by then the largest population
among the EU countries, and thus be entitled to have the largest number of
votes in various EU councils. Turkey could thus block pro-Armenian
initiatives and help pass pro-Turkish and pro-Azeri resolutions in the EU.
Therefore, the time to get any possible concessions out of Turkey is now,
before it joins the EU.

Whether or not Turkey eventually becomes an EU member in 10 or 15 years from
now is very difficult to determine in advance. To begin with, no one really
knows with any degree of certainty the domestic and foreign developments
that would shape Turkey’s decisions and as well as the attitudes of
Europeans about Turkey years from now. Here are some of the factors that
could influence the outcome of Turkey’s EU membership negotiations:

1) The social, economic and political conditions within Turkey that would
impact its government’s desire to make the extensive changes required by the
EU negotiations framework;
2) The stability of neighboring Iraq and the repercussions on Turkey arising
from Iraqi and Turkish Kurds pursuing their national aspirations;
3) The social, economic and political conditions within various EU member
states, particularly the attitude of their citizens towards the influx of
more foreign workers at a time when they may be suffering from high
unemployment and social unrest;
4) The state of negotiations on the settlement of the Cyprus problem;
5) The clout of the US government in terms of its ability and willingness to
influence the EU on Turkey’s membership;
6) Whether or not more terrorist acts are committed by radical Islamist
groups, particularly in Western Europe;
7) The results of the referendums that are to be held in several European
countries on whether to allow Turkey to join the EU; and
8) The status of Armenian-Turkish relations that are partly linked to the
outcome of the negotiations on the Karabagh conflict.

While Turkey will most probably have to lift its blockade of Armenia, since
“the EU-Turkey negotiation framework” document requires that it
unequivocally commit to “good neighborly relations,” the recognition of the
Armenian Genocide by Turkey is not certain at all. Aside from the repeated
non-binding resolutions adopted by the European Parliament demanding Turkey’
s recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the EU itself has not made such
acknowledgment a part of its requirements for membership.

It would be na´ve, if Armenians believe that they could block Turkey’s EU
membership because of its non-recognition of the Armenian Genocide. If
several years from now, Turkey successfully fulfills all EU requirements and
settles the conflict in Cyprus, its EU membership would be just about
guaranteed. Armenians should not expect European countries to rise to their
defense, at the expense of their own self-interests. The Europeans would
care about Armenian issues only when they happen to coincide with or serve
their own national interests.

To be able to squeeze the maximum concessions out of Turkey, Armenia and the
Diaspora would need to make common cause with the majority of Europeans who
are strongly opposed to Turkey’s EU membership. Turkish officials must
realize that unless they sit down at the negotiating table with Armenians
and try to accommodate some of their grievances, Armenians would work
tirelessly for the next 10 or more years to ensure that Turkey’s membership
is delayed indefinitely. It is not in Armenians’ interest to block Turkey’s
EU membership, but to drag it out as long as possible. The longer the
negotiations take, the more concessions can be squeezed out of Turkey. This
is the logic behind the positions of Cyprus and Greece. Despite the fact
that they could have vetoed the start of Turkey’s EU talks, Cyprus and
Greece allowed the talks to go forward with the aim of extracting
concessions from Turkey during the negotiating process. Had they used their
veto last week, they would have deprived themselves of the opportunity to
get any concessions from Turkey.

The interest of Armenians requires that, on the EU issue, Turkey remain a
bridesmaid, as long as it refuses to pay the dowry to become a bride!




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