Over protests from Turkey, Germany on June 2 passed a resolution recognizing the Ottoman Empire-era slaughter of ethnic Armenians as genocide.
The motion, backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bloc, also accepts a German share of the guilt in the 1915 mass murder. As Ottoman Turkey’s ally in World War I, the German Reich failed to prevent the destruction of ethnic Armenians, the resolution reads.
The vote in the Bundestag, the German parliament’s lower house, turned Berlin into a frontline for the ongoing feud between Armenia and Turkey over these events. Both Yerevan and Ankara have tried to sway the vote. Turkey, which denies that the 1915 massacre amounted to genocide, warned Germany against supporting the resolution. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan phoned Merkel on May 31 to warn that “diplomatic, economic, trade, political and military – we are both NATO members – will be damaged," Deutsche Welle reported.
The vote has no legal ramifications for Ankara, but antagonizing Turkey is awkward for Germany, which, according to DW, is home to over 1.5 million ethnic Turks. Germany also heavily relies on Turkey to control the flow of migrants from Syria into the European Union. The migrant deal, pushed personally by Merkel, has already become strained. Erdoğan in the past has threatened to re-open Turkey’s borders and put refugees on buses bound for Europe if the EU fails to waive visas for Turkish citizens.
In response to the June 2 vote, Ankara recalled its ambassador to Germany for consultations. Weighing in on Twitter, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu advised that “The way to close dark pages in [Germany's] own history is not to defame the history of other countries with irresponsible and baseless parliament decisions,” Hürriyet Daily News reported.
Armenia also weighed in on the debate in the Bundestag. President Serzh Sargsyan called on German lawmakers not to be swayed by Erdoğan’s threats. Germany should not back away from the resolution “just because it makes the head of state of another country angry,” Sargsyan said.
Commenting on the German parliament's decision, Armenian Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, a member of Sargsyan's ruling party, claimed that the vote can help "prevent the recurrence of new crimes against humanity."
Compared to Turkey, Armenia had few ways to influence Germany. The country has no strategic border with the EU and, within its South Caucasus neighborhood, has the least active connections with the EU. Armenia’s neighbor, Georgia, is tied to the EU via a 2014 Association Agreement, while Azerbaijan is the primary suppler of natural gas for the Southern Gas Corridor, a major Europe-bound pipeline project.
Armenia, by contrast, is a member of the European Economic Union, essentially a Russia-led anti-EU. Still, the EU and Armenia are exploring new ways of cooperation within the limits of Yerevan’s association with Moscow.
The EU is offering financial aid to Armenia to help overhaul key sectors like agriculture, justice and the civil service. Armenia itself is looking for simplified access to the EU market, which already has bypassed Russia by a sizeable margin -- 8.5 percentage points, according to official data -- as the country's top export market.
Arguably, the vote on genocide recognition by Germany, the EU's economic powerhouse, could make the path toward EU cooperation sweeter still for Yerevan.