By Emil Danielyan
Recognition of the Armenian genocide will be on the agenda of negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union which are expected to open next year, the president of the EU’s executive Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, indicated on Thursday.
While stressing that Turkey should face up to its past, Barroso stopped short of using the word “genocide” in reference to the 1915-1923 slaughter of some 1.5 million Armenian subjects of the Ottoman Empire. He also made it clear that the issue will not be a precondition for the start of accession talks.
“Over the next few years, all of these issues are going to have to be up for discussion. But on the day of opening of negotiations with Turkey, we can't introduce new political conditions at this stage,” Barroso told a news conference in Brussels.
“Having said that, the question you raise (of Armenia) must be the subject of a frank and sincere discussion. There should be no qualms about that,” he said. "We have to have a debate about our values, about what Turkey and Europe want, about what are prepared to commit ourselves to."
Barroso was speaking just hours before the start of a crucial EU summit in Brussels which is expected to give the green light for the start of the entry talks with Ankara. His comments followed the French government’s calls for Ankara to stop denying the genocide.
French President Jacques Chirac appeared to endorse those calls as he made a case for Turkey’s acceptance into the EU in televised remarks late on Wednesday. He said he hopes the Turks will do some “memory work” in the coming years.
Turkish recognition of the genocide was also demanded by the European Parliament earlier on Wednesday. In a resolution, the EU assembly also urged Turkey to reopen its border Armenia “as soon as possible.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the non-binding resolution on Thursday and expressed hope that the EU leaders will heed its Armenian-related provisions. “The decision by the European Parliament demonstrates that the European community fully understands and shares Armenia’s concerns relating to the current unacceptable state of Turkish-Armenian relations,” read a ministry statement.
(GI-Photolur photo: Greens and socialist deputies hold papers saying "YES" during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.)