By Emil Danielyan
The European Parliament renewed on Wednesday calls for Turkey to recognize the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire as genocide, but said that is not a precondition for its accession to the European Union.
In a non-binding report highly critical of Ankara’s compliance with EU membership criteria, the assembly said it "reiterates its call on Turkey to acknowledge the Armenian genocide, as called for in previous European parliament resolutions." However, EU lawmakers voted to remove a key clause that would have set genocide recognition as a precondition for Turkish membership in the bloc.
The clause had been included into the original version of the report that was approved by the parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs on September 5. Turkey rejected that demand, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that expecting Ankara to recognize the genocide is tantamount to “chasing a dream.”
Reports from Strasbourg said that the precondition, which has been set in previous European Parliament resolutions, was deleted under pressure from the decision-making European Commission. Reuters news agency quoted European Commissioner Louis Michel as saying that keeping the clause in the text would mean "moving the goalposts."
Recognition of the Armenian genocide is not among the Turkish membership criteria that have officially been set by the EU’s executive body and member governments. Still, a number of EU nations, including France and the Netherlands, have separately termed the 1915-1918 mass killings a genocide, ignoring strong protests from Turkey.
In a related development, it emerged on Wednesday that the two largest Dutch political parties have removed ethnic Turkis refusing to acknowledge the genocide from the list of their election candidates. The candidates include Ayhan Tonca and Osman Elmaci of the governing Christian Democrat Party. Tonca is one of the country's most prominent Muslim politicians and is chairman of an umbrella organization of Islamic groups known as CMO. The third evicted candidate, Erdinc Sacan, represented the opposition Labor Party.
According to the Associated Press, Tonca and Elmaci had initially said they will assent to the Christian Democrat Party's official position acknowledging the killings as genocide, but both later denied that in an interview with a Turkish newspaper.
"As a result of an interview in the Turkish paper Sabah, a discussion took place between the party and Mr. Elmaci and Mr. Tonca," the CDA said in a statement. "In this discussion it was determined that there is a structural difference of opinion over recognition of the Armenian Genocide."
It said the men will not be candidates and thanked them for their services. Labor's Sacan had never accepted his party's position accepting the genocide as a fact, reported the Associated Press.