Constitutions are not to be toyed with

The decision of the French parliament last week to pass a bill making it a crime to deny that the 1915-1917 massacres of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks constituted genocide caused tumult in Turkey. Turkey’s secular army and the Islamic-leaning government were both angry at France’s bill and responded with a threat that Paris risks losing euros, dollars and Turkey’s vast market. «The decision lies with the people,» Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said after the Ankara Chamber of Commerce threatened to boycott one French product every week, if the bill were adopted. Gul also threatened French carmakers in Turkey with retaliatory measures and warned that French companies would be excluded from plans to build a nuclear plant. The president of the Council of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Nafi Gural, urged consumers to keep their cool. He warned that barring French companies from economic projects will cost Turkey thousands of jobs. In view of the French presidential and parliamentary elections due in the spring, critics say that deputies passed the bill with an eye fixed on the strong Armenian minority living in their country. But the issue is more complex than that. Germany’s presidency of the European Union is expected to resurrect talks on the bloc’s moribund constitutional treaty. Constitutions are not something to toy with. For that reason, along with its respect for the genocide of the Armenians, Europe should take into account other obvious issues, such as the Cyprus problem.