Dimpool Analysis Team


20 February 2012

On January 23, 2012 the French Senate passed a law, which criminalizing the denial of the mass killings including Armenians’ perpetrated between 1915 and 1917. The law, which could lead to a punishment of a year in jail and a fine of 45.000 Euros, was also passed in December by the lower house of the parliament. Now, it only needs to be signed by President Nicolas Sarkozy to become an enforceable law that will lead to “permanent” sanctions.

Armenian Genocide has an important place in French-Turk relation. In 2001, the French senate has recognized the events of 1915 Armenians, as genocide. In 2006, a first text penalizing the denial was adopted in the National Assembly, but it was never approved by the Senate. In 2012, Senate voted successfully and passed the law by 127 votes against 86.

Armenian supporters for the Genocide bill in France
Armenian supporters for the Genocide bill in France

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the law as it considers “invalid”, “discriminatory”, and “racist”. He also accused the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to “exploit the anti-Turkish sentiments referred to electioneering”.

In December 2011 Ankara announced the -temporary- suspension of diplomatic relations, economic meetings, and military cooperation with French government, although, Sarkozy sent a letter to Erdogan stating that said the bill does not target a particular country.

There are objections to this law also in France. Most of the opposition party members think that Sarkozy played a trump card in order to be re-elected in 2012. However, there are doubts regarding that jeopardizing relations with Turkey is worth to be re-elected. Secretary of State declared that both Turkey and France should stay calm about this law or there will be unpleasant results.

On the diplomatic front, The Turkish Ambassador in Paris reiterated Turkey “for consultations”. At this stage, The reduction of the level of diplomatic relations with France is not in question as, the ambassador has returned back to Paris. Nevertheless, Bilateral visits and the meeting of a Franco-Turkish Economic Forum in January 2012 are canceled.

The military cooperation is another measure should be considered. On the military level, “Turkey will now give permissions on a case by case basis for any request to use its airspace by French planes and it also rejects calls for his French war ships to visit ports”.

Defensive Military Cooperation between France and Turkey had already been suspended in 2006 after the adoption of the law that was passed by the National Assembly yet, was subsequently rejected by the Senate.

France is the second largest foreign investor in Turkey with 8 billion Euros of economic Exchange density in 2011. Economically, Turkey, a member of WTO and Customs Union, cannot officially apply sanctions against French goods. Yet, French companies would be still boycotted by Ankara, as in 2006. Areva – a world-leading company in nuclear energy- could be excluded from the nuclear power plant market. Moreover, a possible boycott of French products could hamper the business of large companies firmly established in Turkey such as Carrefour, Renault, Total, and L’Oreal.

The accumulation of frustrations of Turkey since 2007, particularly due to the refusal of French opposition to its EU membership, weighs on this new crisis. In 2001, Chirac had supported the recognition of the Armenian genocide. But he had gained credibility in Helsinki by supporting Turkey’s accession to the European Union.

This law, could spread far beyond the Turkish-French bilateral relationship as, it will deeply effect Turkey’s relationship with the European Union. There is already an imminent crisis with the EU regarding South Cyprus’ upcoming presidency of the EU in June 2012. Turkey’s situation will also have an impact within NATO and the NATO-EU relations, particularly in areas where NATO and the EU will need to cooperate in such as Iran’s nuclear program and the unrest in Syria.

However, the main problem for Turkey will begin if Sarkozy gets re-elected. This means there will be a strong obstacle against Turkey’s EU membership process. While Turkey’s economy grows a faster-than- expected with an increasingly confident foreign policy role in the G20, Middle East and the Caucasus region, its EU neighbors languish in recession, soon it may want reconsider it’s EU membership process.

While Ankara deals with France, as the 100th commemoration of the 1915 events approaching, Turkey it might also have to face with similar parliamentary movements by the parliaments of other countries that are influenced by Armenian Diaspora. By lacking a viable mechanism to resolve its differences with Armenia and the Armenian Diaspora, it appears likely that today’s vote in the French Senate is only a harbinger of things to come.


“Gizem Aktas is a student in international relations at Galatasaray University, interested in human rights, terrorism, and Middle East.”


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