Turkey’s commitment to the European values and standards is the only guarantor for Armenia
NGO “European Integration” chairman Karen Bekaryan gave interview to the project organizers of the “REPAIR – Armenian-Turkish platform” which is published on the website of the project. The complete text of the interview is presented below.
-How is Turkey’s foreign policy perceived in Armenia?
-Very complicated. If we try to establish that on several statements, then it looks like this: Issue number one; Turkey’s ambitions in its foreign policy have gone further than its possibilities are. This means that Turkey’s greatest aspiration to have a greater role both in the region and globally at times reaches absurdities, because after all that policy should be in line with possibilities and political culture. For example, Davutoglu’s famous “zero problems with neighbors” thesis not only did not come to life, but also it added new problems to existing ones. This speaks about the fact that these ambitions are spreading wider: at one point there are ambitions towards the Arab and Muslim world, then there’s ambition to have a regional role along with Russia in the Eurasian context, then there’s EU membership, then there’s the ambition of being a US ally but acting alone in the region. This permanent changing situation indicates very big ambitions without the corresponding possibilities. The second statement I will conditionally call the pendulum of the problems. The problems are not few and they try to divert attention with each. For example, the Cyprus issue is precipitated; positive steps regarding the Kurdish issue are imitated and while attention is diverted towards there, the problem gets deeper and turns into a crisis. Third is the policy of time and again using ultimatums and threats. For example, they have given an ultimatum to the EU: “If by 2023 we are not an EU member” and then a list of threats. In other words, it would be incorrect to say that Turkey has no role in the region. Of course it does; it has a large population, it is the largest NATO member state after the USA. It is also incorrect to say that that role is as much as they want and envision.
-The Middle East is very important too. Sometimes Turkey hesitates: should it become an EU member or should it rule in the Middle East…?
-Yes, it is the whole Muslim world which is not limited to the Middle East. Turkey’s ambitions are not constrained by a narrow scale.
-Sometimes this foreign policy impacts Armenia directly or indirectly. What are the positive and negative sides of Turkey’s EU membership to Armenia?
-There are two possible scenarios. When we speak of achieving EU membership, it could be in accordance to European standards or as a result of a political decision. The EU has precedents in both cases. Earlier this is how the issues of membership for Greece and Portugal have been resolved, when the standards are not completely compatible, but the political interest has become supreme. Consequently, Armenia’s response to each of the cases is different. If membership is granted because of political consideration and without the corresponding standards having been met, then it is very negative for Armenia and might even bring harm to it. In this case harm will first be brought to the European value system, to its policies and to the region before harming Armenia. Because if Turkey received that possibility, then that will bring about the syndrome of overrating. But, if it joins the EU after fifty or one hundred years and if that is done in accordance with the standards, then there would be positive results. Because, there is an essential difference between having an unpredictable neighbor and a neighbor which is under the umbrella of a larger structure; and this pertains to issues of security up to many other issues. For example one cannot imagine to have closed borders when those standards are met. Also, one cannot imagine it not facing its own history, because there are human rights issues. I mean there are a lot of positive elements, and there is also a sub-context; when advancing based on meeting the standards, Armenian-Turkish issues are concurrently resolved also. Otherwise, in case Turkey joins the EU, the Armenia-Turkish relations will turn into an Armenian-European problem. For that reason, Armenia’s European integration pace has to be ahead.
-And what happens if membership is granted for political considerations?
-There would be terrible consequences, and not only for Armenia. If for a moment we shift from the EU to the Council of Europe he picture will be clearer. For example, if any of you members constantly fails to meet its obligations and you use extraordinary but objective means and you punish them, expel them, but also realize that you lose your supremacy over them… The alternative is that if you do not take such steps, then they become an infection within the organization and tempt the rest to act similarly. In this way the greatest harm is brought upon the structure. The same would happen if Turkey becomes an EU member for political considerations. We talk about human rights, but we have to take into consideration how they deal with the Kurds. No one should be allowed to be aggressive towards the territory of others, but today we are forced to accept the fact that Northern Cyprus is occupied by it. An EU member state cannot have problems with its neighbors, but it not only has problems with its neighbors, it also has problems within the country. If, in spite of all these, Turkey joins the EU, it will become a real infection.
-What expectations Armenia has from EU-Turkey relations.
-Armenia expects that Turkey’s relations with the EU are realistic and objective and through normal process of negotiations. Since Turkey today has the status of a candidate, that entails negotiations on a large number of packages. As a result of those packages and obligations Turkey would be Europeanized. As long as there is that process, although at times moving forward slowly or pounding, Armenia cannot but view it positively.
-When there is talk of Turkey joining the EU, some say it would be good for Armenia, because we then become neighbors with the EU. Would you comment on this?
-I intentionally did not comment. The Armenian-Turkish closed border is also the Armenia-NATO closed border; has that changed anything? Of course it has not. Hence, if Turkey is admitted into the EU for political considerations, then the EU-Armenia border would be closed as well. This is not a reason, it is a consequence. If the process goes in a natural course, then that border would be open even before membership. Armenia has quite a wide cooperation with NATO within the Individual Partnership Action Plans, but that has not changed anything and the border with neighboring NATO continues to be closed.
Source: “REPAIR – Armenian-Turkish platform” project