PARIS - France is continuing with its preparations at full speed to host its Turkey Season as planned between July 1 and March 31, 2010, even though Erdoğan has signaled a possible cancellation. The nine-month-long event is set to introduce Turkey, in all facets, to the French people
"Canceling it would be the best present given to the enemies of Turkey and France. Such a thing would clearly hurt Turkey’s image in France and in Europe," Stanislas Pierret, the commissar responsible for the "Turkey Season in France," told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review during an interview at his office late Wednesday.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week signaled that he would consider canceling the season in response to French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s statements that Turkey should be satisfied with a "privileged partnership" instead of being made a full member of the EU. Erdoğan has already canceled a dinner with the sponsors of the season and made clear that he will not be supporting the initiative.
It was also reported that President Abdullah Gül would not be be present during the Turkey Season’s July 4 opening ceremony. Although the Turkish leaders are not expected to participate in the events, the Foreign Ministry and Ankara in general seems inclined to proceed with the implementation of "Turkey Season" as planned.
Pierret said he knew about the Foreign Ministry’s statements denying the cancellation rumors, but was not aware of Gül’s decision and that France is continuing with its preparations at full speed. The season will take place between July 1 and March 31, 2010, and will be officially announced by the two countries’ culture ministers June 30 in Paris. The foreign and culture ministries of France and Turkey are supervising the process.
Leading a young team composed of Turks, French and one Italian, Pierret and top aide Arnaud Littardi are responsible for the coordination of all activities. "You see, it’s a European team," Pierret said while introducing them. Pierret and Littardi have both served in Ankara at the French Cultural Institute, likely the reason why they were chosen for this hard task. On the Istanbul end of the preparations, Görgün Taner and Nazan Ölçer of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, or İKSV, are the responsible parties.
This year’s event ’more complicated’
"The difference in the Turkey Season from the [events] held for other countries in previous years is that it will not be concentrated only on one topic," said Pierret. "Apart from cultural activities, it will have a strong economic dimension and create an environment for cooperation between the universities. It’s not a festival. It’s something much more complicated."
Littardi said the activities and performances will take place in nearly 40 cities and will not be confined to Paris. Large cities such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille will all host some events during the season.
This is a courageous decision when one considers that Marseille, for example, is home to a strong Armenian diaspora and Strasbourg has many Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin who frequently criticize Turkey’s policies in mass demonstrations.
In fact, some program events will specifically address the members of the Armenian community and Kurds. Aynur Doğan, a Turkish artist of Kurdish origin, will take part in a concert along with Mercan Dede, Rasim Bıyıklı, DJ Sufi and DJ Yakuza in Nantes, during the July 14 celebrations of France’s Republic Day.
Noting that Istanbul has been designated as the 2010 European Capital of Culture, Pierret said this magic city would be introduced to French public opinion with all its different cultures, including those of the Jewish and Armenian communities.
Pierret said the goal of Turkey Season is to re-introduce the richness of Anatolia to France. "We are just organizers. Turkey will introduce itself: its energy, its reforms, its developments," he said. "Those who know only clichs about this country will have to reconsider."
Though the Turkey Season primarily targets a French audience, some events will take place in the touristy parts of Paris, so they will also attract international visitors. A traditional Turkish coffeehouse will be set up in the Tuilieres Gardens district of Paris between July 15 and Aug. 15 to serve tea and coffee with traditional Turkish delight to guests. Some 10 million visitors pass through this district during the tourism high season. The Louvre Museum will host three separate expositions during the event.