By Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
BERLIN — Will the German Bundestag ever make up its mind about the genocide? This is the question raised last October when the news broke that the government coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats (CDU-CSU/SPD) had agreed to put the issue on the back burner, for an undetermined period of time. The reason, clearly, was Berlin’s concerns not to endanger negotiations with Turkey regarding the refugee crisis that is destabilizing German politics and threatening the European Union with internal strife if not dissolution. My view at the time (Armenian Mirror-Spectator, “Recognition, Realpolitik and the Ravages of War” October 22) was that the genocide resolution could wait, if necessary, but that it was urgent for German political leaders, eager to fight the root cause of the refugee crisis, to acknowledge the nefarious role played by Erdogan’s Turkey in the Syrian war. I argued that, however vital in managing refugee flows, Turkey was itself part of the problem, by virtue of its support for the so-called Islamic State. Unless that issue came to the fore, hopes to deal with the refugee crisis merely through negotiations would be in vain.
Last week, the question was raised again and in a forceful manner, when the opposition Green Party forced debate on a resolution in the Bundestag, demanding recognition of the genocide. The lengthy discussion that followed Green Party leader Cem Özdemir’s presentation ended in a highly unusual fashion: Özdemir withdrew the resolution on condition the government parties pledged to reach a vote on the issue by April 24 of the current year, a condition they accepted and sealed with a handshake. What had happened?
Parliamentary Democracy and Realpolitik
The resolution the Green Party hoped to put to a vote was a text based on an earlier all-party resolution, which the Green party had revised last fall in collaboration with experts from the coalition parties, CDU-CSU and SPD. In presenting the motion, Özdemir recalled that all parties had agreed on April 25, 2015 that what the Ottoman Turkish government had perpetrated against the Armenians was genocide. He also recalled that a hundred years ago the German parliamentarians had debated the issue, and then, as now, Realpolitik had won the day; Imperial Germany, an ally to Ottoman Turkey in the war, had explicitly admitted it would do all to keep its alliance, even if that meant the elimination of the Armenians. Özdemir said that the current government, in its plea to postpone the issue so as not to anger Erdogan, was guilty of “cynical Realpolitik,” and criticized it for allowing a foreign government to set the agenda in Berlin. For this reason, his party was presenting the resolution as its own initiative and calling for a vote. In closing, he quoted a letter sent him by Archbishop Karekin Bekjian, Primate, Diocese of the Armenian Church in Germany, who wrote that the aim was truth and recognition; the church leader pointed to the discussion process ongoing in Turkish civil society and urged German legislators to send a signal supporting this. Recognition of the genocide would signify the beginning of a democratic process.