ISSN 2330-717X

Resisting Nicolas Sarkozy – OpEd


By Maxime Gauin

The famous historian Pierre Nora accurately summarized the situation of the censorship bill regarding the Armenian issue: “We have lost a battle, but not the war.”[1]

The government did not use the urgency procedure; but now, it is asking for the discussion of the Boyer bill at the end of January. Once again, this is an irrational position of an irrational president. Nobody should be surprised. At the end of 2011, Nicolas Sarkozy argued that from 2001 to 2011, despite the “recognition” of the “genocide” claims, Franco-Turkish trade increased 30%. Mr. Sarkozy seems unaware that at the same time, the Turkish gross domestic product doubled and its imports and exports multiplied by four.

In contrast to Mr. Sarkozy’s absurd stance, it should be noted that in 2006, when the first censorship bill regarding the Armenian issue was adopted by few dozens of deputies, a survey indicated that more than 60% of those interviewed were against the proposition of the law. In December 2011, a survey of the readers of the centrist daily Le Monde cited more than 80% of people being against the Boyer bill.

Such resistance, if not hostility, exists in every level, including the government and the administration. In its January 4 issue, the weekly Le Canard enchaîné has indicated that the minister of foreign affairs’ ire against the text of Ms. Boyer is shared by all the diplomats who are involved in the relations with Turkey. In a previous issue, Le Canard enchaîné quoted a private statement by Mr. Juppé: “This bill is intellectually, economically and politically bullshit [sic] which the words are powerless to name (cette loi est intellectuellement, économiquement et politiquement une connerie sans nom).” It is also widely apparent that Minister of Interior Claude Guéant, who tried for years to ease the tensions with Ankara, is “discontent” with this initiative, and that the Minister of Defense Gérard Longuet expressed his concerns about the consequences for the French military and defense industry.

Ms. Boyer was not even able to convince all the co-signatures of his draft to vote: About 50 MPs cosigned, but barely 36 voted for it on December 22.

In the Senate, the friends of Turkey and the supporters of free speech are more numerous. Gérard Larcher, president of the Senate from 2008 to 2011, and Christian Poncelet, president of the Senate from 1998 to 2008, are creating what they themselves call a “resistance front.” Mr. Larcher is a long-time friend of Turkey, who played an important role in the rejection of the previous censorship bill on May 4, 2011. He now wants to become the chairman of the Franco-Turkish friendship group in the Senate. The centrist senator Nathalie Goulet, supporter of Azerbaijan against the Armenian occupation, would like to be vice-chairwoman of the group, and is regardless already doing her best against the bill. Jean-Pierre Raffarin, prime minister from 2002 to 2005, currently a senator, expressed his criticism of Ms. Boyer’s proposition, and stated that if the bill remains fundamentally the same he would vote against it. Jean Bizet, chairman of the European Affairs Committee until September 2011, was on holiday until January 10 but also played a decisive, albeit discreet role in the vote of May 4, 2011, and there is no reason to believe that he changed his mind.

In the Socialist group, the Turks have unfortunately lost Charles Gautier, one of their best friends, in September 2011, but the group remains deeply divided. Its legal adviser recently wrote a memo explaining that any law which would punish the “denial” of the “Armenian genocide” allegation, especially the Boyer draft, would be necessarily censored by the Constitutional Council. Even a long-term supporter of the Armenian nationalists, Gérard Collomb, is concerned by the increasing number of French of Turkish origin who are registered on the electoral lists in his city (Lyon), and much less enthusiastic than in Spring 2011 to support the Armenian nationalist demands for censorship.

There were certain Turkish concerns regarding the position of François Hollande, the Socialist candidate inthe presidential election, but nobody should criticize him for that: During more than a decade, no serious effort was made by Turks or independent historians to explain the Turko-Armenian conflict to him. Unlike Mr. Sarkozy, Mr. Hollande never used any kind of anti-Turkish speech, even when he spoke together with the worst anti-Turkish Armenian activists. In 2011, Mr. Hollande cancelled his participation in the Dashnak-backed symposium organized in a school of management in Paris. In his last book, he writes that the negotiations between Turkey and the EU for membership must be “loyally carried out,” and that “whatever happens, we must not reject this great people. Europe needs them. They [the Turkish people] know that they are a unifying trait between two continents and several cultures.” Mr. Hollande adds that his views about the Armenian questions are “personal.”[2] More recently, he denounced the Boyer bill as “electorally motivated.”

Regardless, contrary to the initial idea of the staunchest supporter of Armenian claims among the Socialist senators, their group listened this month to not only two representatives of the Coordination Council of France’s Armenian Associations, but also Demir Önger, President of the Anatolia Cultural Center (Paris) and main organizer of the Coordination Committee of Franco-Turkish Associations in the course of its creation.

The Franco-Turkish Chamber of Commerce launched a petition campaign which is already more successful than the one of 2006.

Another, recent event could influence the Socialist group. Jean Daniel, creator of the emblematic weekly of the French non-communist left, Le Nouvel Observateur, where he continues to write every week, criticized in December Ms. Boyer’s bill in the name of the liberty of speech; but now, in his last editorial, he challenges the “Armenian genocide” label more explicitly, arguing rightfully that the genocidal intent is “not at all proven” in the Armenian case.[3]

In short, the current problem is a question of courage: Will the courageous opponents to the anti-Turkish and unconstitutional bill convince a sufficient number of senators to share their courageous stance and thus vote against the bill, like on May 4, 2011? The next events, after the presidential election, will also be a basic question of courage.

Maxime Gauin

JTW Columnist

[1] (English version).

[2] François Hollande, Le Rêve français, Toulouse, Privat, 2011, pp. 59-60.


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JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).

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