France to discuss genocide bill today


Tension sky-high between France and Turkey over genocide bill
Tension between Turkey and France is sky-high as the French parliament will start discussion today of a bill that would punish denial of any genocides recognized by French law with up to a year in prison and a 45,000-euro ($59,000) fine.
The bill was presented by a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s party and has been reformulated in order to remove direct references to Turkey and Armenians. The French parliament had voted in 2001 to recognize the World War I killings of Armenians as genocide. In 2006 the lower house voted to criminalize its denial, though the bill failed to get through the Senate five months later.
Turkey argues the 1915 killing of Armenians in the then-Ottoman Empire wasn’t genocide. Turkey has gone at length in the past weeks in pressuring the French into dropping the bill. Turkey’s politicians have left nothing untried, from open threats to milder scuffles. And then to threats again, over catastrophic economic consequences.
Nothing new, to tell the truth. Indeed, after the French lower house of parliament approved the 2006 bill, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blocked Gaz de France SA’s participation in the 7.9 billion-euro ($10.3 billion) Nabucco pipeline and suspended military relations.

When the United States, last year, approved with one of the House of Representatives committee a resolution recognizing the killings as genocide, Turkey was quick to withdraw (although temporarily) its ambassador.

France and Turkey have a $20 billion relationship, including trade and investment, according to Volcan Bozkir, the head of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs committee. Bozkir use no middle terms when he explained that “When a Turkish businessman has a choice between an unfriendly country and a friendly country, there is a negative psychology that can affect his choice.” Which basically means that if Turkey is, as Christopher Buckley, Airbus’s vice president for Europe, Asia and the Pacific region, put it, in the top 10 of “strategically important markets” and may spend $50 billion on planes by 2029, the money might not go towards French companies.

Likewise, Electricite de France SA is lobbying to build a nuclear plant on Turkey’s northern Black Sea coast, as reported by Aksam newspaper last August. Turkey has also held talks with Japanese and Korean companies.

“France is about to commit a political sin,” Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said on Wednesday. “In the energy industry, the recently maturing France-Turkey relations may not be able to withstand this.”

Turkey’s economy grew an annual 8.2 percent in the third quarter, a pace only exceeded by China among the Group of 20 major economies.

It is worth reminding that French carmakers including Renault SA control a fifth of Turkey’s market and French banks including BNP Paribas SA have assets in the country exceeding $20 billion. French direct investment in Turkey between 2002 and 2010 was $4.8 billion, the Turkish embassy in Paris says.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu summoned more than 20 local executives last week from French companies including Credit Agricole SA and Groupama SA to lobby against the bill.

“Turkey should make a gesture towards its history, as France has done to its past,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement after meeting the Turkish delegation. He pointed out that Turkey and France have a “close enough relationship” and could therefore “overcome any difficulties.”

Bernard Accoyer, the president of the National Assembly, has opposed the bill on the grounds that parliament shouldn’t legislate about history.


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