Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU-Turkey relations

Delivered in Plenary - 24th October 2007

Mr President

According to The Times newspaper of London, the recent US Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide was appallingly timed. So, when is it a suitable time to talk about genocide?

The Armenian lobby is so vociferous in this Parliament precisely because of the apparent conspiracy of silence that has surrounded the genocide question for almost a century. The murder of the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink should have provided a period of national reflection but, sadly, this did not happen.

Nevertheless, reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia, including the reopening of the closed border, is an important element of Turkey’s efforts to join the EU. But, in my view, no true democracy can be in denial of its past, even its deepest and darkest secrets.

Just as important is a lasting settlement of the conflict in Cyprus, which remains at an impasse caused by the presence of occupying troops in an EU Member State as well as non-implementation of the Ankara Protocol.

Minority religious rights, in particular Christian, also give cause for concern. For instance, the Greek Orthodox seminary of Halki remains closed since 1971; the Assyrian Christians who fled to Germany and Sweden during the war with the PKK have been stripped of their Turkish citizenship, preventing them from claiming back their homes lost in the conflict. And Turkey sees the Alevis as no different from the majority Sunni Muslims and therefore does not recognise their separate religious needs.

Article 301 of the Penal Code on insulting Turkishness has resulted in many convictions and, in March – rather bizarrely in my view – a court in Istanbul issued an order denying access to the video-sharing website YouTube when allegations were made on the sexuality of the founding father of modern Turkey, Kemal Atatürk.

Speaking entirely personally and not on behalf of my party or my Group: a lot clearly still needs to be done.