By Garen Yegparian
If Armenian media had a tradition of naming an "Event of the Year," in the same spirit as TIME’s "Person of the Year," it would have to be the European Union’s (EU) setting of October 3–2005 as the commencement date for negotiations over Turkey’s membership in this geographic-econo-politico-sociological assemblage.
Of course this selection would be much like TIME’s selections of Hitler (1938)–Stalin (1939–1942)–Khomeini (1979)–and baby Bush (2000–2004)–you know you have to do it–but despise the selection nevertheless.
But what if we could back-date this selection process? What if we were to go back to–let’s say 1878? What would the Armenian event of the year be? Would it be Khrimian Hairig’s famous "Iron Ladle" speech? Close. It would be the opportunity that gave rise to that oration. That’s the occasion when we got screwed over–primarily by the British–who wanted and got Cyprus out of the deal. We–on the other hand–went from having the reforms we desperately needed and sought in the Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire–with strong provisions for enforcement by the Russian Empire–enshrined in Article 16 of the Treaty of San Stefano–to the watered down irrelevancy that was Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin.
Now fast-forward four and a half decades–what event do we select for 1923?
We’d just lost a third of the planet’s Armenia’s to the Turkish government’s tender proclivities. Sovietized and gone our independent republic–the first Armenian state since 1375. The Treaty of Sevres–which looked pretty good for us–remained nominal only–a victim of Great Power and oil politics (it wasn’t clear then whether Turkey would include some of the oil-rich provinces now known as northern Iraq). So the victorious powers (North American and European) kissed up to the murderous Mustapha Kemal Ataturk and his toy-country–by zapping Sevres with the Treaty of Lausanne. This magnanimously granted us minority status in the new Republic of Turkey.
Even without going into what we’ve endured at the hands of the crusaders marching through our country or the wall of silence around the Genocide that’s only recently started to crumble–a pattern should be obvious. We’ve gotten and should expect nothing from the Europeans (and their trans-Atlantic progeny)–unless their interests coincide.
With the EU’s surrender to Turkey–we should really take heed. What’s going on? Huge numbers of citizens of the EU’s member states have less than zero desire to see Turkey join their club. Yet the leadership has started the enrollment process. Of course platitudes are heard about how the commencement of negotiations need not necessarily lead to Turkey’s acceptance. Riiight–suuuure. Why have rules been changed to allow Turkey’s entry unless fully one-third of the member states object? It used to be that any one member could veto the process. Why was Turkey let off the hook–seemingly temporarily–of having to sign a required trade agreement with the ten newest members of the EU. But how did Greece and Cyprus (and even Hungary) allow this to happen? What’s going on?
The Euros are in a jam. In their hearts-of hearts–they want no part of a merger with one of the most murderous–dissimilar countries on the planet. Yet their talk of tolerance and a pseudo-open-mindedness compels them to take this route or face a significant loss of credibility. Then there’s the fear (one the Turks never allow anyone to forget) that if not "in" Europe–Turkey might well go the extreme-Islam route. Then there’s the U.S. pressure arising from an entrenched–ossified State and Defense department bureaucracy’s unswervingly pro-Turkey mindset. Let’s not forget the captains of European industry salivating over the prospect of dirt-cheap workers flooding Europe’s labor market. Also–some of the newer member states may have refrained from objecting out of some twisted sense of propriety.
On the other side of the scale are popular opposition–Islam-Christianity and other culturally based incompatibility–labor fears–concerns over the distorting weight Turkey with its massive population will carry in European decision-making (and its being a Trojan-horse for U.S. meddling in EU affairs)–the occupation of Cyprus–the Genocide and other Armenian issues–and Kurdish issues. There is also chatter about an alternative–"special relationship" for Turkey with the EU.
We should prepare ourselves–starting in 2015–the earliest possible date of Turkey’s acceptance into the EU–for another nasty "Event of the Year". If Turkey gets in before Armenia–or even at the same time–we’re toast. As other pundits have pointed out–that would be the death knell of our issues in European fora.
But this is not pre-ordained nor inalterable. We could work intensely–lobbying on both sides of the Atlantic and from the Caucasus to scuttle the process–at the very least until Turkey makes good on its obligations to the Armenian nation. What we’d have to do in this scenario is obvious. Every available means at our disposal–money–contacts–moral suasion–political i.o.u.’s called in–financial arrangemen’s converted into political ones–etc.–would have to be used to shape and reshape public and official opinion to our liking.
But there is another route. What if we assume that Turkey will eventually wangle its way in despite our best efforts–and act accordingly? What meaningful concessions could we extract from that terrorist state?
Certainly the obvious Genocide recognition–reparations–and return of lands come to mind. But what if other–clever–back-door–less objectionable (for Turkey) options are proffered? What if they commit to compiling–with and under Armenian and international participation and scrutiny–a list of property ownership in the Ottoman Empire as of April 23–1915?
What if they are agree to documenting–rebuilding–maintaining–and properly describing every Armenian structure within their borders? What if Armenia’s are accepted as those with the right of first refusal for the purchase of any property or engagement in any economic development project within Wilsonian borders?
What if they agree that an Armenian delegation–elected by the Diaspora–will become part of their parliament and also part of Turkey’s representation in EU bodies? What if Turkey accedes to co-ownership–hence oversight and control as well–of Ottoman archives by every state that emerged from the former territories of the empire–including as an exceptional case–the current Republic of Armenia? What if an "Armenian Studies in Turkey" endowment is funded by Turkey–but populated by scholars of Europe’s–the diaspora’s–and Armenia’s choosing?
Regardless of what approach we select–we have until that infamous October 3–2005 date to have our plan in place–recognizing that the longer the membership negotiations drag out–the more favorable the outcome likely to be for us.
Let’s get to work with a public (and more importantly private governmental and organizational) discussion of this issue.