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European Referendums And Armenian-turkish Relations

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  • European Referendums And Armenian-turkish Relations

    AZG Armenian Daily #123, 06/07/2005



    Toronto, Canada -- "Turkey's Entry into the European Union and its Relations
    with Armenia in light of the Rejection of the EU Constitution" was the
    subject of a speech given by Dr. Stephan Astourian, a member of the Zoryan
    Institute's Academic Board, on June 10, 2005 in Toronto.

    According to Turkish Press, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul rejected
    any link between his country's bid to join the European Union and the French
    "no" in a referendum on the EU constitution. Gul acknowledged that the
    French "no" could trigger a debate in Europe on Turkey's EU bid, but argued
    that an EU decision in October 2004 to start membership accession talks with
    Ankara could not be altered due to political or legal changes in an
    EU-member country.

    Opinions in Europe and among Armenians are heated and sharply divided on
    this issue. Some feel that Turkey's questionable human rights record and
    tolerance toward ethno-religious diversity, its treatment of the Kurdish
    minority, corruption, the northern Cyprus question, and the continued denial
    of the Armenian Genocide are clear indicators of its inability to be a fully
    democratic country at this time, and therefore that Turkey should be barred
    from the EU. Others, among them Armenians both in the Diaspora and the
    homeland, feel that it is in Armenia's best interest to have Turkey as an EU
    member on its border that has adopted and implemented EU standards regarding
    open borders, democracy, including complete freedom of speech and assembly,
    and acceptance of the darker chapters of its history.

    Dr. Astourian considered the impact on the issues of the recent rejection of
    the EU constitution by France and the Netherlands. He explained that the EU
    has not included recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a precondition for
    Turkish membership in Europe. "However, the issue of recognition of that
    genocide has now become quite central in European and Turkish public
    debates," he said. "We must be aware that the issue of the Armenian Genocide
    can and will be used for other purposes by people for whom it is not a
    fundamental issue. It is up to concerned Armenians," he added, "to think
    realistically about such manipulation of the issue of the Armenian Genocide
    by various lobbying and political groups and to ask whether it is useful or
    detrimental to Armenia and Genocide recognition."

    In Dr. Astourian's view, it may be reasonably inferred that some of the
    reforms required of Turkey to join the EU, e.g., freedom of speech and
    assembly, a decent human rights record, a significantly smaller role of the
    military in political life, etc., will facilitate debate about the Armenian
    Genocide in that country. Although such debate does not imply necessarily
    that the Armenian Genocide will be recognized as a "genocide," it will
    undermine the orthodox, state-sponsored version of Turkish history in the
    medium term.

    Dr. Astourian noted that the prospect of Turkey's entry into the EU does
    raise a number of crucial issues. In particular, he challenged the audience
    to consider what course of action Armenians should take if Turkey were to
    rescind its official state version of history and recognize the Armenian
    Genocide. Dr. Astourian stressed that addressing rationally complex issues,
    such as the potential consequences of Turkey's entry into the EU or an
    evaluation of the position to be adopted in case Turkey should recognize the
    Armenian Genocide as such, or as a "crime against humanity" or some such
    other terms, requires knowledge and dispassionate expertise. After summing
    the latest academic developments concerning the Turkish-Armenian dialogue
    and research into the Armenian Genocide, Dr. Astourian pointed to the
    extreme scarcity of scholars dealing with social scientific fields that
    usually inform policy and decision makers. The speaker also indicated that
    the very few major academics in Armenian-related fields are now close to the
    end of their careers. Dr. Astourian emphasized, therefore, the need for the
    Armenian Diaspora to invest in a new generation of social science scholars
    who can effectively address complex issues over the next twenty to thirty
    years and contribute to detached analysis regarding Armenian affairs. Dr.
    Astourian pointed to the Zoryan Institute as the leading organization in
    this regard, responsible for proactively trying to address the critical
    issue of expanding a cohesive intellectual base for the Armenian Diaspora
    through dispassionate education and research that conforms to the highest
    standards of scholarship.

    The event was part of an ongoing series of public lectures organized by the
    Zoryan Institute on issues relating to Armenia, the Diaspora and genocide.
    This lecture was made possible by with the participation of the following
    organizations: Armenian Evangelical Church of Toronto, Holy Trinity Armenian
    Apostolic Church, St. Gregory's Armenian Catholic Church, St. Mary's
    Armenian Apostolic Church, Armenian Association of Toronto, Armenian General
    Benevolent Union of Toronto, Armenian National Committee, Canadian Armenian
    Business Council, Ryerson University Armenian Student Association, and the
    University of Toronto Armenian Student Association; and with the support of
    the following sponsors: Arax Jewelers, Robert P. Adourian Barristers &
    Solicitors, and Indo-Iranian Rugs.

    Prof. Astourian is Executive Director of the Armenian Studies Program,
    Adjunct Assistant Professor of History at the University of
    California-Berkeley, and a member of the Zoryan Institute's Academic Board.

    The Zoryan Institute is the first non-profit, international center devoted
    to the research and documentation of contemporary issues related to Armenian
    social, political and cultural life. To this end, the Institute conducts
    multidisciplinary research, publication, and educational programs dealing
    with Armenia, the Armenian Genocide, and Diaspora, within a universal
    [url][/url] - [COLOR="Red"]Armenian[/COLOR] [COLOR="Blue"]Genealogy[/COLOR] [COLOR="Orange"]Forum[/COLOR]