Turkey should address its troubled past and be prepared for the possibility of eventually recognizing the Armenian genocide, according to Martin Schulz, the new European Parliament speaker.
Schulz also said late on Tuesday that he “respects” the French parliament’s recent decision to make it a crime to deny that the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire constituted genocide.
“I know there are many people in the European Union who share the views of members of the French parliament,” he said after talks with Egemen Bagis, a Turkish government minister who is facing criminal proceedings in Switzerland for genocide denial.
The AFP news agency quoted Schulz as urging Turkey to be “as open as possible” about its history. “It’s the best way to face the future,” he told a joint news conference with Bagis in Brussels.
“You should confront your history and allow independent investigations and if these independent investigations conclude that it was a genocide you should recognize it,” the German parliamentarian said.
In that context, Schulz pointed to Germany’s unequivocal acknowledgement of the Jewish Holocaust. “Especially as a German, I have to live every day with our past, which is not an easy past,” he said, according to AFP. “This is a very difficult past and the demons of my country’s past live on today.”
The European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, first recognized the World War I-era deaths of some 1.5 million Armenians as genocide in 1987. Ankara has angrily condemned this and similar resolutions adopted by the parliaments of about two dozen nations. In insists that Ottoman Armenians died in much smaller numbers and not as a result of a systematic government policy of extermination.
Bagis publicly reiterated the official Turkish version of the 1915 events when he visited Switzerland late last month. State prosecutors in Zurich said on Monday that they have launched a preliminary investigation to see if his remarks breached Swiss anti-racism laws which make it a crime to deny a genocide. The Swiss parliament recognized the Armenian genocide in 2003.
Bagis denounced the Zurich prosecutors and stood by his remarks before flying to Brussels on Tuesday. “I said there on that day that what happened in 1915 was not genocide and I repeat that today,” he told journalists, according to Reuters. “Nobody should doubt that I will give the same answer every time I am asked.”