French Parliament backs Armenian genocide Bill

France’s lower house of Parliament on Thursday backed a Bill that makes it a crime to deny claims that Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks during World War I.

Though the Senate or President Jacques Chirac can still block the Bill, Turkey has made clear the move will badly damage relations with France. Ankara denies the genocide claims.

French politicians have said Turkey must acknowledge the genocide before it can hope to join the EU.

Here are some reactions to the French vote.

Hall Gardner, American University of Paris

“There is a very strong Armenian minority [in France] but there also is the issue of bringing Turkey into the EU.

“Part of it [the vote] is meant to block Turkey’s entry into the EU. That’s the strategy of some people.

“A human rights issue might also be behind it, but it’s more the self-interest of blocking Turkey [from EU entry] which is being pre-dominant.

“The other issue is the immigration issue.
Not just Turkish immigration, but Islamic immigration in general. Making a strong stand against Turkey in particular and sending a signal against immigration in general, is an attempt to appeal to voters in the south [of France], who are pretty conservative.

Alexis Govciyan, president, coordination council of Armenian organisations of France

“We are pleased and satisfied that this Bill was passed by the national representatives as it was presented. This is one step. We will have to continue in the Senate.”

“I think that on the international level this will raise awareness—in a positive way, I hope—including in Turkey and that this question will be seen in a new light, with a new objectivity, and that it will be possible to open a real dialogue in the years to come.”

Didier Billion, political scientist at Institut des Relations Internationales et Strategiques.

“For several deputies, there is a moral duty to say France—as the homeland of human rights—must take a position on these issues. I think some deputies really believe in that.

“But it’s totally unreal. It no longer functions like that. The proof is the debate we had a few months ago surrounding France’s “positive role” during colonisation. It should have made us realise that rather than being proud about our universal message on human rights, we have to address some problems linked to our own history, notably on the colonial past.

“Undoubtedly, compared to other European countries, we have a very significant Armenian minority in France. Some parts of this Armenian minority are very active and organised.

“For electoral reasons, several deputies, who have strong Armenian representations in their districts, have told themselves that in order to ensure re-election, they are standing by those who demand punishment for the denial of the genocide.”

Lars Christensen, Danskebank

“Given the proximity of elections, the Turkish Parliament can only react aggressively. It can only worsen prospects for EU accession and will move the Turkish population even further away from pro-EU sentiment. The closer we come to Turkish elections [next year], the more risks we factor into Turkey. “We have long been optimistic that Turkey will become an EU member, but we’re moving in the wrong direction, which will really affect markets. There’s been an overly strong rebound in Turkish markets and this could definitely trip things up.”

Haluk Burumcekci, Fortis Bank chief economist

“The economic impact will depend on Turkey’s reaction. We see that Turkey has softened its reactions compared to the beginning. At the start, people talked about a tougher reaction such as boycotting French products. But now we are coming to an understanding that this is not very logical. It has been understood that a boycott of French firms would hurt our citizens. It looks that the reaction will be limited to barring French firms from state tenders. This is a method which has always been in use.

“The EU Commission has made its opposition to the Bill clear. This is positive and shows that this will have no impact on Turkey’s relations with the EU. If other EU countries try to adopt a similar Bill, there is a risk that recognition of genocide becomes a criterion for Turkey to join the EU.”

Gizem Oztok, Garanti Investment economist

“This will create jitters in the market in the short term, but we do not expect a big impact over the long term. It will be negative for Turkey but because the European Union will violate its own principles on freedom of speech, it could turn out to be beneficial for Turkey at some point. The markets may suffer to some degree but we do not expect a big reaction as they have already priced in the French parliament’s acceptance of the Bill.

William Hale, Sabanci University, Istanbul

“Even if the French Bill ever becomes law, how could it ever be enforced? How could the courts cope if thousands of Turks who have French citizenship keep denying the Armenian genocide?

“It also seems to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights which gives very clear and limited cases where freedom of speech can be restricted. French national security, territorial integrity, public safety… are not threatened by those who deny the Armenian genocide.”

Semih Idiz, commentator for Milliyet newspaper

“Some people in Turkey are already calling to make it a crime to accept the claims of an Armenian genocide. The right-wing in Turkey and the right-wing in Europe are feeding off each other, even though the French bill is actually sponsored by the Socialists.

“French-Turkish ties will take a dive but things may settle after a while. The European Commission is making an effort to keep the talks with Turkey on course and has strongly criticised the French initiative.” - Reuters

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