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A Letter to the EU Foreign Ministers Regarding the formal opening of accession talks with Turkey in Wales on 3 October 2005 by Harry Hagopian, CRAG - Executive Consultant, 1 September 2005

Dear EU Foreign Ministers

I refer to the EU Gymnich 2005 informal meeting today at the Celtic Manor Resort near Newport in Wales. One of the key items on your agenda will be the formal opening of accession talks with Turkey on 3 October 2005.

I have often written or spoken about the inter-woven issues surrounding Turkey's accession to the EU, and have also voiced my own personal support for such membership so long as its fundamental criteria of admission are neither overlooked nor overruled for the sake of politically-spun expediency. Therefore, this Open Letter aspires to represent my succinct guidebook to some of the topical points addressing Turkey's bid to accede to the European Union. I hope you would take it into consideration as you steer the future of the European Union, and as you vet new members wishing to join this club in future years or decades.

  1. •  Subsidies that would go to Turkey alone are estimated to exceed €16.5 billion and, according to some predictions, balloon to €33.5 billion - including vast agricultural subsidies and regional aid;
  2. •  Rather than providing an educated and sophisticated labour force for Europe at large, those leaving Turkey to seek work in the EU in a post-accession environment will in all likelihood be poor, uneducated and in large numbers - causing an imbalance in employment scales within the EU;
  3. •  In the last year, there has been a 134% rise to $10.4 billion in the country's current account deficit;
  4. •  Turkey is running a massive debt, and includes $23 billion owed to the IMF as well as billions borrowed via the international bond markets;
  5. •  Given that the mean gross public debt is around 40% of gross domestic product in the new member-states, it is noteworthy that Turkey's gross debt is double that figure at c. 80% of its GDP.

At this stage, I must also raise another issue that is close to my own heart. As an Armenian, who is also an international legal and political consultant, I wish to remind you of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 and link it with some of the rights and values that I cherish most within the EU - including the fundamental freedom of expression.

Now, I do realise that this 90-year-old issue evokes different reactions within different EU countries. On the one hand, it is clear that the issue of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide still produces a measure of indifference within a few of the twenty-five countries of our Union. On the other hand, it generates various degrees of irritable non-support, expedient support or full-fledged support within most other member-states.

Mind you, I cannot understand the position of our own Government as it constantly re-iterates its regret about the massacres in 1915 against Armenians but adds that there is no evidence that they constituted genocide according to the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide. Surely an unethical position, when one thinks of the litany of eminent British and international historians who have unequivocally stated that this was indeed genocide.

Not only that, but the Blue Book ( The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915-6 ), which the historian Arnold Toynbee compiled for Lord Bryce during WWI, is of relevant historical evidence. It is a written and textual indictment of Ottoman Turkey by eyewitness accounts that described the atrocities committed against Armenians during WWI. Turkey has attacked this book, published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, as war propaganda. Yet, when this question was put to Toynbee in a personal letter, he replied:

It is true that the British Government's motive in asking Lord Bryce to compile the Blue Book was propaganda. But Lord Bryce's motive in undertaking it, and mine in working on it for him, was to make the truth known, and the evidence was good: the witnesses were all American missionaries with no political axe to grind. So the Blue Book, together with Lepsius' book {Deutschland und Armenien, 1914-1918}, does give a true account.

Turkey's reaction to the Armenian Genocide goes well beyond sheer denial. In order to expunge itself of the burden of mens rea or its criminal intent, it is now imputing this intent on Armenians by claiming that they were the ones who perpetrated those genocidal massacres against Turkey. Such a reaction regrettably reminds me of the psychology of more recent genocidal chapters in Rwanda or Darfur when victimisers try to project themselves as victims.

But Turkey is now also muzzling the fundamental freedom of expression within its territories. Allow me to refer you to one instance. Orhan Pamuk, perhaps the most acclaimed Turkish author whose books include My Name is Red and Snow , gave an interview to the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger on 6 February 2005 in which he was quoted as saying that Turkey killed 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians. A prosecutor in Istanbul has now indicted Mr Pamuk under Article 301[1] of the Turkish Penal Code on charges that his remarks amounted to a 'public denigration' of Turkish national identity - punishable by up to three years' imprisonment.

Dear EU Foreign Ministers , you are surely well aware that the overall mood within the European Union has altered dramatically in the last year or two. It can perhaps best be amplified by the volatile discourse within the whole EU about the Constitution that culminated with significant rejections in France and the Netherlands. As a European citizen, I do not believe at all that the EU project is dead. Nor do I believe that it should be shelved and later transmuted into an ante factum free-trade market. Much of Europe would still support the post-war philosophy of Europe and its coherent harmonisation, so long as its structures are reformed, transparent and accountable, and that the yawning gap between ruling politicians or bureaucrats and the overwhelming European population is narrowed down. The tool cannot become the toolmaker, and the EU needs to listen to its constituents as it moves forward. After all, you need simply log on the newropeans magazine web-site to assess the strength of innovative feelings running within the EU - regardless of dubious political distinctions made between old and new Europe.

My guidebook highlights those challenges that Turkey as the applicant country, and the EU as the host body, both face today. I hope you will not shy away from adopting those constructive decisions that could ultimately help strengthen the EU. Do not seek discouragingly paternalistic solutions. Sophistry or cosmetic powder will not dupe the EU citizens any longer - certainly not at a time when they are questioning you about their collective futures.

Today, in Wales, it behoves well for Turkey to remember that it cannot keep using its hackneyed arguments - be it on Cyprus, the necessary reforms it must undertake, its approach to the human and minorities' rights of its own citizens or the Armenian Genocide. It is no longer enough to hide behind arguments of Islam versus secularism, political chauvinism or even geo-strategic interests. Indeed, it does not bode well for Turkey's admission to the EU when it trashes a Report on minority and cultural rights, prepared by the Human Rights Advisory Board and chaired by Professor Baskin Oran, because it does not support the official Turkish thesis. It does not bode well either when it cancels an academic conference on the Armenian Genocide [at the Bogazici / Bosphorus University] because the Turkish Minister of Justice Cemil Cecik believes it is 'a stab in the back of the Turkish nation'.

The EU project has taught me that narrow-minded ideological nationalism no longer sits well anymore with our more freedom-friendly and open EU today. You should call upon Turkey to move forward, not backslide at every turn. After all, if I am to welcome Turkey into the European fold, do you not think I have the right to ask that it uphold those same Eurocentric principles that I as a European must uphold too?

I wish you success in your deliberations for the overall good of the larger European Union.

Yours in Europe,

Dr Harry Hagopian , LL.D - Executive Consultant

Campaign for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide (CRAG)

[Committee of the] Armenian Community & Church Council (ACCC)

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