BRUSSELS (Reuters)—Turkey’s backlash against European countries that call Ottoman Turks’ 1915 massacre of Armenians genocide will complicate Ankara’s ambitions to join the European Union, the commissioner in charge of EU enlargement told a newspaper on Thursday.
Turkey denies that the killing of up to 1.5 million Armenians and the exile of the rest of the population from their historic homelands in what is now eastern Turkey, at the height of World War One, constitutes genocide and relations with Armenia are still blighted by the dispute.
Turkey has also rebuked EU members including Germany and Austria whose parliaments used the word in resolutions marking the 100th anniversary of the event this month.
Commissioner Johannes Hahn told Austrian newspaper Der Standard that Ankara’s “very harsh” reaction should be seen in the context of elections coming up in June.
“This may be quite popular in parts of the country and among certain parts of the population. But what worries me are the long-term consequences,” he was quoted as saying in an interview.
“The seeds of an anti-European and anti-Western stance are thus sown, which from today’s perspective makes a future (EU) entry very difficult.”
The European Parliament this month also backed a motion that called the massacre genocide, days after Pope Francis provoked fury in Turkey by using the same term.