Memorandum upon Turkey’s accession to the EU



T U R K E Y’ s


This Memorandum has been drafted and is put forward by a number of co-signatories- human rights organisations and associations connected with the relevant minorities- in the context of the forthcoming consultations and decision on the Republic of Turkey’s application to join the European Union.


The European Parliament has urged Turkey on numerous occasions since 1987 to recognize the genocide committed against the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire. The signatories have examined the official position of the Turkish government regarding those Christian minorities still present on Turkish territory (Armenians, Syriacs and other Aramean-speaking Christians, as well as Pontic Greeks); they have come to the conclusion that their situation has in fact significantly worsened over the years 2002 and 2003, at which time the Minister of Education of Turkey, Dr. Huseyn Celik, launched a propaganda campaign against them. Those in Turkey’s teachers’ union voicing criticism on the subject, and characterizing these measures as racist, have been prosecuted and condemned in criminal courts.


According to the signatories, those activities of the Turkish Interior Ministry which are characterized by hostility towards minorities are not only obstacles to appeasement between Turcs on the one hand, and Armenians, Syriacs and Pontic Greeks on the other, but they actually constitute a threat to the democratisation process currently under way in Turkey. As a consequence, the co-signatories propose to the European Parliament, European Commission and European Council, inter alia, to suspend subsidies intended to the Turkish Ministry of Education until the issue is resolved, and to step up its support to civil society initiatives in the field of minority rights.


The cosignatory organizations

(in alphabetical order)

AAE-Assembly of Armenians of Europe / Brussels

ACSA - Assyrian-Chaldean-Syriac Association  / Sweden

AGBU - Armenian General Benevolent Union - Section of Switzerland / Geneva

Abovian Armenian Cultural Association / The Hague

ADL - Ramgavar France (Arménien Démocrate Libéral) / Paris

AUS - Armenian Union of Switzerland / Geneva

Christian Solidarity International / Zurich

Christian Solidarity Worldwide / London

Europe-Third World Centre - CETIM / Geneva

FOAN - The Federation of Armenian Organisations in The Netherlands / The Hague

FSPC - Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches / Bern

FASD - Föderation der Aramäer (Suryoye) in Deutschland e.V.

Society for threatened poples – Germany / Göttingen

Society for threatened poples – Switzerland / Bern

Human Rights Without Frontiers / Brussels

IADL - International Association of Democratic Lawyers

Informations- und Dokumentationszentrum Armenien / Berlin

Institut für Armenische Fragen e.V. / Munich

lnstitute Tchobanian / Paris

Interfaith International / Oxford, UK

International Council of Jewish Women

International Educational Development / Los Angeles

LICRA - The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism / Geneva

LIDLIP - International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples / Geneva

Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights / Greece

MRAP - Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples / Paris

SAA - Switzerland-Armenia Association/Bern

SUA – Syriac Universal Alliance/Netherlands

The Union of Armenian Associations in Sweden / Uppsala

TÜDAY - Menschenrechtsverein Türkei/Deutschland e.V. / Köln

Verein der Griechen aus Pontos in München / Munich

Verein der Völkermordgegner e.V. / Frankfurt a.M.

WILPF - Women's International League for Peace and Freedom / Geneva

Working Group Recognition – Against Genocide, for International Understanding / Munich, Berlin


Press release

Brussels, September 14, 2004


Turkey’s accession to the EU – Blind spot for the European Union

Non-Muslim minorities in Turkey as targets of a recent hate campaign


Will the European Commission, in its report of October 6, 2004, consider Turkey as « ready » for the EU accession ? Will the European Council start the negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the EU at the end of this year ?


In recent years, Turkey has made certain legal and administrative progress. Nevertheless, at the same time, it has significantly hardened its position towards fundamental rights, such as the freedom of opinion and has adopted a repressive policy towards the minorities living in Turkey. In particular, traditional prejudice towards Non-Muslim minorities is kept alive by the public education system and the state controlled media. Such an attitude, however,  is incompatible with the Copenhagen criteria required for accession negotiations of a new member State.


In this regard, a Memorandum, initiated by the Working Group Recognition – Against Genocide, for International Understanding (Berlin) and the Switzerland-Armenia Association (Bern), was submitted to the attention of the European Council, Council of the European Union, members of the European Commission and European Parliament. Recalling the Copenhagen Criteria, the Memorandum explains the concern of the signatories for a lasting improvement of the minority situation in Turkey. The dozens of national and international NGOs which signed thisMemorandum protest against the hate campaign of Turkey’s minister for education, Dr. Hüseyin Celik, which includes the official denial of the genocide, committed on the Christian population of the Ottoman Empire and resulting in 3.5 million victims (1912-1922). For this reason, the signatories want to draw the EU’s attention to the necessity of safeguards and profound reforms in the education system and in media control, for public education and mass media are the main “opinion leaders” and directly responsible for an extremely negative perception of these minorities in Turkey and for subsequent attacks on institutions (churches, synagogues, schools and  representatives of Non-Muslim communities), which did not even cease during Turkey’s reform process of late.


Speakers to the Press Conference (by alphabetical order):

- Mr. Baastian Belder, Independence/Democracy Group, Member of the European Parliament, Netherlands;

- Mr. Michalis Charalambidis, writer, member of the Central Committee of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, expert on the genocide of Greeks in Pontos, Athens;

- Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, United Kingdom, Chairperson of the Christian Solidarity Worldwide, London;

- Ms. Hülya Engin, Committee member of TÜDAY, organization for the defence of human rights in Turkey and Germany, Cologne;

- Dr. Tessa Hofmann, scholar of Armenian studies and sociology; scientific documentarist at the Free University of Berlin; writer, human rights activist; chairperson of the Working Group Recognition – Against Genocide, for International Understanding;

- Mr. Johny Messo, chairman of the Foundation Study Centre Aramea, main representative of the Syriac Universal Alliance (SUA) to the United Nations Office in Geneva;

- Prof. Dr. Yves Ternon, doctor, historian and writer, researcher and expert in genocide studies, in particular the genocide of Armenians and its denial, Paris. 
Mr. Nicolas Tavitian, expert in international political relations, Brussels, will assume the role of the moderator. 

Arminé Grigoryan
Assembly of Armenians of Europe 
In charge of the European Union Contact and Information Office


Summary report on the press conference

A memorandum to the European institutions was presented to the press, calling upon the EU to address seriously the continuing discrimination and prejudice towards minorities, and particularly non-Muslim minorities which prevails in Turkey. The speakers argued that the policy of denial of the genocide committed in 1915 on Armenians, Pontic Greeks and Syriacs is an indicator of a continuing problem, and should be addressed as part of Turkey’s accession process to the EU.


The issues has so far been sidelined in this context in official circles, with the Commission arguing that the denial of the genocide is a “matter for historians”, with no relevance to contemporary relations between Turks an the peoples concerned.


At the press conference, Dr. Tessa Hofmann, scholar, writer and human rights activist introduced the initiative by highlighting the Memorandum’s 41 signatory organisations’ “concerns about very recent and severe violations, on a governmental level, of minority rights in Turkey. [For example] the decrees, issued by the Turkish minister of education, Dr. Hüseyin Çelik, during 2002 and 2003 against Armenian, Syriac and Greek demands for the recognition of the genocide on their ancestors have been described by the Teachers Trade Union of Turkey as chauvinist and racist.” “We do not ignore [recent progress in respect for human rights] , but we know that lasting progress depends on profound reforms in Turkey’s values as represented in her education system and on the approach towards ethnic and religious minorities by media and other opinion-leaders”. Dr Hofmann also detailed evidence of the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Turkey today.


Prominent French historian Prof. Yves Ternon focused on Turkey’s policy of genocide denial and denied that the EC could remain neutral on the matter: “I am only a historian, and for thirty years I have examined the crime of genocide in its complexity […] But I am in a position to warn states against complacency towards denialism. Dissimulating a genocide, refusing to qualify this breach of international law, rejecting the evidence is tantamount to taking part in its continuation.” Yves Ternon added that he refused to envisage that Turkey might be admitted into the EU without first having recognized the Armenian genocide.


Hülya Engin, speaking for the Turkish Human Rights Group TÜDAY, denounced her government’s position: “The main obstacle to Turkey joining the EU is not that most of its citizens are Muslims”, she stressed. “If Europe is a project, based on democracy, equality and human rights, if it embodies the hope to fight racism, discrimination and genocide, then it has not the right to admit the denial of this crime. If Turkey wants to join Europe, its first task will be to discover for itself the usefulness of a public debate on its past”.


Two other speakers stressed the destruction from 1915 onwards, of the Pontic Greeks and the Aramean-speaking Christians. Michalis Charalambidis, member of the Central Committee of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, addressed the little known topic of the genocide of Pontic Greeks living in Turkey, while Johny Messo, chairman of the Foundation Study Centre Aramea and UN representative of the Syriac Universal Alliance explained the critical situation of Syriacs of Turkey. The prejudice towards the remnants of these groups is Turkey is unabated today.


Finally, Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury, Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords, closed the press conference with a moving call for Turkey to face its past, emphasizing in particular how denial of past genocide feeds insecurity today in the region, as relations between Armenia and Turkey remain conflictual.


Brussels, Thursday 23 October, 2004

Nicolas Tavitian/Tessa Hofmann



The full text of the memorandum, with signatures, is available hereafter as a PDF document (6 pages, A4) in several languages:


- Le Mémorandum en francais

- The Memorandum in English

- Das Memorandum auf Deutsch