Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Bill Complicates Turkey's EU Bid ; the French National Assembly's Move to Outlaw Denials of an Armenian Genocide Has Enraged Turkey

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

French Bill Complicates Turkey's EU Bid ; the French National Assembly's Move to Outlaw Denials of an Armenian Genocide Has Enraged Turkey

Article excerpt

By a wide margin, the French parliament voted Thursday to make it a criminal act to deny an Armenian genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks, enraging Turkey and further deepening its suspicion of the European Union.

Islamic Turkey - which has sought for decades to join the EU and is now in membership negotiations - vowed retaliation against France that could disrupt billions of dollars in trade, even as both sides explore the limits of free speech.

The vote came the same day that Orhan Pamuk, the celebrated Turkish novelist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Charges of "denigrating Turkishness" against Mr. Pamuk - brought after he publicly spoke of the killing of 1 million Armenians during World War I, and 30,000 Kurds - were dropped earlier this year in a case seen as a test of Turkey's commitment to EU-driven reforms.

The two events get at the heart of contradictions in modern Turkey, where democratic and West-leaning EU aspirations often clash with history. The staunchly secular state - a full member of the NATO military alliance - casts itself as an indispensable bridge between East and West, but has yet to be accepted as such by Europe.

Many Turks see the genocide vote - a hot- button issue - as just one more obstacle to keep them out of the 25-member EU club.

"Turks find it very hard to swallow this; even Francophile Turks educated there are turning their backs on France," says Sami Kohen, a foreign affairs columnist for Milliyet newspaper. "A lot of us fear this will further encourage critics of the EU [who] will say: 'Enough is enough; we should give up on this EU.' "

Turkish lawmakers Wednesday proposed a counter-bill that would recognize an "Algerian genocide" carried out by colonial French forces in 1945.

Turkish columnists are also raising France's considerable role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, as they seek to even the moral playing field.

Analysts say the French vote is likely to embolden Turkish nationalists and those who oppose EU membership for Turkey. Recent polls show that Turkish support for joining the EU has dropped from nearly 70 to around 50 percent now.

To become law, the bill must pass the French senate, which is not certain, and be signed by President Jacques Chirac. Punishment would include a one-year prison term, and a 45,000 ($56,500) fine, the same penalty now on French books for denying the Holocaust.

One Turkish newspaper headline took aim at France's reputation as the home of human rights and justice. It read: "Liberte, egalite, stupidite."

"French-Turkish relations, which have developed over centuries ... have been dealt a blow today as a result of the irresponsible false claims of French politicians who do not see the political consequences of their actions," Turkey's foreign ministry Abdullah Gul said in a statement.

"If this bill is passed, Turkey will not lose anything but France will lose Turkey," Mr. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.