A French bill making it a crime to deny the so-called “Armenian Genocide” could do more harm than good according to the European Union. The legislation, which has been approved in parliament was welcomed by French Armenians. But the EU says it could damage efforts to end decades of disputes over the killings.
However, conservative deputy Roland Blum said there cannot be two categories of genocide – the Jewish genocide, which has always been condemned, and the Armenian genocide which, he said, is only condemned in some cases. “There are no varying degrees of genocide,” he adds.
Armenia says one and a half million of its people were systematically killed by Ottoman Turks in 1915 – Ankara vehemently denies this, arguing that Armenian deaths were a part of partisan fighting in which both sides suffered. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul reacted angrily to the vote, saying: “This will be an unforgettable shame on France. France can never describe itself as a country of freedoms again.”
It is feared the crisis could have a negative impact on French businesses in Turkey and deepen the divide with Europe.
“It might increase anti-Europe sentiment and cause a nationalist backlash against Europe, and that’s a frightening thing,” said journalist Ergun Babahan from the Turkish paper Sabah.
The French government has distanced itself from the bill saying it still needs to be approved by the upper house. But some analysts see the legislation as a political manoeuvre to secure backing from France’s large Armenian community ahead of next year’s presidential election.