International Secretariat, ARF-Dashnaktsutyun Bureau
“Armenia-Turkey: Perspectives for the normalization of relations in the framework of EU Integration”
28 September 2008, Yerevan
EU integration for Armenia does not have an alternative. Armenia has chosen EU integration as the path to its internal and economic development.
Although Armenia has a great deficit regarding democracy, first the New Neighbourhood Policy and recently the Eastern partnership Program gives Armenia a great opportunity to harmonize its economic and production standards with EU standards. This will assist Armenia when eventually diplomatiic relations are estblished between Armenia and Turkey and Turkey lifts Armenia’s blockade and direct economic relations are established. In other words Armenia’s EU integration in this case will help Armenia-Turkey direct economic relations, since Turkey has to a very large extent integrated in the EU’s economic sphere. [Armenia needs further democratization, because I believe one driving force for the Armenian side in the current negotations is the deficit of democracy in Armenia, causing concessions which on the long run will indermine a stable co-existence.]
From our perspective Turkey’s EU integration, regardless whether Turkey at the end is accepted or not in the EU as a full member, is important for Armenia. A Europeanized Turkey, a really democratic Turkey is of great importance for Armenia, because it would mean that our neighbour to the east is a transparent and predictible neighbour.
One major concern we have is Turkey being acctepted into the EU as a full member without really meeting the Copenhagen Criteria. This could happen dur to some grandiose global and strategic reason, in order to save a dialogue of religions, in order not to be viewed as refusing the membership of a large country with an absolute majority muslim population.
This has been the case with the start of negotiations with Turkey for EU membership, without Turkey really recognizing a member of the EU, namely Cyprus.
It is undeniable fact that the EU membership process has resulted in some significant changes in Turkey in the spheres of democracy and national minority rights. It should also be stressed that these changes are not irreversible, at least not yet.
Furthermore, some of these changes are in essence cosmetic changes. A case in point are articles 301 and 305 of the Turkish penal code, which continue to be used to prosecute intellectulas and reporters for “insulting Turkishness.” This is a classical case of how Turkey operates in this sphere; it lowers the benchmark so much, that any advance from that low standard is welcomed by the EU as a great step forward.
We believe that a real benchmark for Turkey’s europeanization, democratization is the recognition by Turkey of the fact of the Armenian Genocide and its responsibility in that Genocide. In this regard, the Armenia-Turkey protocols, if signed, ratified and implemeneted, will lower the standards for Turkey’s real democratization. The sub-commission for the development of mutual trust on a historical dimension, studying historical documants and archives will be used by Turkey, just as the negotiations themselves are being used, to hinder the international recoognition of the Armenian Genocide, thus freeing Turkey of this external pressure, which coupled with a very important internal soul-searching would eventually bring about recognition of Turkey’s own history by Turkey itself.
Another provision not in the protocols, but rather in the process of the negotiations that will take Turkey off the hook, is making establishement of diplomatic relations with Armenia and the lifting of the blockade conditional upon the resolution of the Karabagh conflict.
Of course we can not blame Turkey for the failings of Armenia’s diplomacy, but I think it is worth stressing that the above-mentioned provisions of the protocols will not help Turkey’s europeanization. If Turkey’s diplomacy is “backgammon diplomacy,” with good numbers most of the time, then Armenia’s diplomacy, in this case, is “chess diplomacy,” but being played blindfolded.
In conclusion I wish to quote Hrant Dink. During the year prior to his assasination, Hrant would try to convince us to change our strategy regarding Genocide recognition. He used to suggest that instead of asking the EU to ask Turkey to recognize the Genocide, Armena and Armenians should ask the EU, a partially responsible for the Genocide, to simoultaneously grant Armenia the same status is would grant Turkey, thus helping them both to resolve their disagreement on a leveled field, with EU standards. I believe Dink’s suggestion is worth thinking about seriously.