31 Ocak 2009
In an unprecedented policy initiative it added its geographical and historical kin to Turkey’s two-century-old Western inclination. The initiative is necessary and important. However, its timing and implementation are much too premature and utilitarian. Moreover, it disables Turkey by isolating these regional issues from its own deep internal and external problems.
The policy initiative is the brainchild of Ahmet Davudoğlu, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy adviser and the "Kissinger of Turkey" as a former U.S. ambassador puts it! "Turkey’s increasing weight in the Middle East is taking the country closer to the EUÉ Our influence spreading more in the Middle East or in the Caucasus will make Turkey more important in Brussels as well as in Washington," Davudoğlu told reporters following his latest mediation efforts for Hamas. When one compares this statement with the reality one gets the feeling of even losing what is in hand.
Turkey has always failed whenever tried to play mediator, to bring peace. The Israeli-Pakistani meeting ended in void so did the Afghanistan-Pakistan talks. The Israeli-Syrian talks are over for good. Mediation between the United States and Iran didn’t even start, neither the Karabagh mediation. The Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Pact remains a pleasant music to ear. Because obtaining results in the those issues is simply unworkable under the present circumstances.
Let’s take the Hamas-Israel (not the Israeli-Palestinian) war. The only self-declared "success" in hand is Hamas declaring cease-fire thanks to the shuttle diplomacy of Davudoğlu. Strangely enough, this has not been announced by any other newswires but those in Turkey.
The Prime Minister may enjoy being a popular leader of the Arab street and Turkey may be close to Hamas. And Hamas should take its place in the Middle East equation from now on, that is clear. But all these do not mean that Turkey is surely impressing Hamas rather it is being used by Hamas. Actually, Turkish mediation zeal and anti-Israeli fury shown during the war negatively affected the high interests of the country.
Over-egging the pudding
Israel, Turkey’s strategic partner in the region has been pushed away. It is not difficult to foresee the results. It may be nothing but just a simple detail that we won’t see any Israeli tourist in the country any time soon. The Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas’ undersecretary Abu Rdeineh disavowed our "Kissinger" who was preparing to mediate between al Fatah and Hamas. Abu Rdeineh bluntly said this is Egypt’s responsibility. Besides it is not difficult to guess how Egypt approached to have Turkish controllers at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, nor it is difficult to see how Hamas would smirk at this eventuality. Moreover, thanks to Erdoğan’s harsh rhetoric in Brussels on Jan. 19, Europeans and United States noted how Turkey has now turned into an advocate of Hamas and how it has been trying to open a space for Iran via Hamas in the Middle East.
Beginning with public opinions no one in Europe is looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a black-and-white perspective of the AKP and Turkish public opinion. Neither are Al-Fatah members and supporters. As for anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab public opinions, it is difficult to detect more than rhetoric in them. Could there be any other indicator to clearly show how we have turned a spare prick at the wedding?
Plus, while tackling with such complex issues all together we couldn’t have time to resolve our own problems with neighbors. Apparently other volunteers are expected to mediate for our disputes with Armenia, Cyprus, Greece and Kurdistan Regional Administration in northern Iraq!
Government’s ardor to mediate is just an immature move in the eyes of Europe and the West in general. It is just giving some Europeans eager to kill our EU membership perspective an opportunity to laud Turkey with free-of-charge compliments and say "Excellency you are so very important."
As we all know, so does Europe know Turkey’s potential importance in the region. But Europe also knows that to put this into work can only be achievable by bringing in a durable political and economic stability together with social peace.
Turkey is a country having an institutional and social amnesia on these regions in consequence of distancing itself from the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East for over a century. Therefore, Turkey is destined to remain an apprentice beside the regional and global actors. Despite these drawbacks, the government’s paying attention to such issues is a positive sign. But only if the feasible is aimed at, if internationally recognized principles are respected and if we are humble enough; if we take due advantage from real assets primarily our economy; if we rapidly are involved in building up a long-term institutional and human capacity about these regions; if we fully concentrate on the EU bid which gives an opportunity to frame all these efforts into a permanent strategic ground. And not if we presumptuously go forward from where we left a century ago. Otherwise, if the government, the prime minister and his chief adviser keep getting involved in issues way beyond Turkey’s capacity and power, this will continue to harm us like after the Gaza war.
24 Ocak 2009
Israel has been pushing Palestinians around as if they are sub-human beings and trying to drive them off of the Israeli land for some time now. In fact, last year the 60th anniversary of such efforts was celebrated. The Arab-Israel wars in 60 and 70’ies, the Sabra-Shatila massacre in Lebanon, the recent Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006…. Mutual hostility, resistance and over exaggerated retaliation have been there for years but the reactions in Turkey this time are unmatched.
There must have been a sort of social pillar of the new interest shown by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP to the countries in the region and differing from well established foreign policy choices of Turkey since 1923. But the picture today is this: While trying to have empathy for Palestine finding one’s self in the lap of the animosity towards the West and of anti-Semitism through a black-and-white approach and through subconscious hostility towards non-Muslims. Reactions against the apology campaign to Armenians may also have played a role in this flood of feelings for Gaza.
The reactions have reached to such an extent that even Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is coming from an entrenched anti-Semitic political tradition had to remember his responsibility and to remind at last week’s parliamentary group meeting that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity. Then the Jewish community published an announcement written in an utmost diplomatic language to express the uneasiness caused by the outpouring of anti-Jewish feelings.
Rhetoric from head to toe
17 Ocak 2009
The paragraph on candidates similar to Turkey reads as follows: "We see that the Prime Ministry comes to the fore in coordination among public institutions of bigger countries such as Poland and Romania. In Poland the Committee of European Integration Ministries led by the prime minister made all decisions about coordination and integration process. In Romania, European Integration Department established in 1997 was transformed into a ministry working directly with the prime minister after the decision on starting negotiations in 1999. Candidate countries relatively smaller in size and population, solved this through foreign ministries. In Turkey, however, it will not be easy for the Foreign Ministry to have a higher position among ministries other than coordination." Indeed it was not easy!
It is crystal clear that the four years since Turkey was given a start for negotiations, on Dec. 17, 2004, were wasted. Official EU documents point at the waste of time. We also know that Turkey’s candidacy is not on EU’s agenda anymore. So again, we all know that 2009 will be a year of all dangers where the relationship would defacto come to an halt. Despite this dreadful course of events, whatever has happened in the last minute and as a result of the classical Turkish reflex the government decided suddenly to take number of required actions which it was supposed to take since 2004.
The government has first launched the National Program that hasn’t been updated since 2003, set up discussions and recently ratified it. In the meantime, despite all lacunas the state television, TRT, started broadcasting in Kurdish. The Ergenekon crime gang case was brought along. Then, Prime Minister Erdoğan’s trip to Brussels next Monday was announced, he hasn’t been there since Dec. 17, 2004! Most importantly, the EU affairs was assigned to a newly-established state ministry. The Secretariat General for EU Affairs, or SGEU, created in July 2000 as well as the new state ministry are under the Prime Ministry.
Appointment of Egemen Bağış as the new state minister for EU Affairs was a very positive development considering his personality, his dedication to the task and his being close to President Gül as much as to Erdoğan. Considering Turkey’s administrative customs and the size of the country, candidacy to the EU is a huge mission and can be achieved only by a top-level political will. This is what has been done with the latest decision. Bağış will completely dedicate himself to EU works and have full support of the prime minister; that’s critical. His sharing and caring nature as well as propensity for consultation is extremely positive for EU works that require constant exchange of opinion.
Despite these positive developments, it will not be easy at all for Bağış. To fix the damage in bureaucracy and society caused by shelving EU-related works for four years will take time and effort. To start with the strengthening of the SGEU, to encourage bureaucracy, to gain public attention back again, to include representatives of stakeholders in the negotiation process and to review the entire communication strategy domestically and in Europe are things to do first. Right across to us, we see an EU preoccupied with the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, global economic crisis and the upcoming European Parliament elections. It is not easy for Turkey to claim a spot in this hectic agenda. The renewed EU structure and political will in Turkey should quickly pull itself together and, meanwhile, support the Cyprus negotiations as best as it can. This is the only way to bring the EU’s attention back on Turkey.
In Brussels, Erdoğan and Bağış will explain to members of the European Commission and Parliament as well as opinion leaders about how determined Turkey is to be an EU member. But Turkey has every right to ask similar political will from EU as our partner. In fact, EU is as responsible as Turkey of the damage caused in the accession process. In this perspective, pronunciation of a reasonable accession date will ease the tension.
I have used expressions like "back to EU affairs" many times before. I wish that this time, in this very blurred political environment everyone has come to his or her sense. I hope we all realize that the "Turkey" ship cannot overcome these storms without a solid EU anchor, so to speak.
10 Ocak 2009
For Turkey and for the world, 2008 was a bad year in any sense and rapidly turned out to be the messenger of 2009. This year will be the beginning of a period where we will pay the price for the past mistakes that have been piling up for years.
Political consolidation since late 2004 in Turkey hit the roof in 2008. Its architect is the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has fallen into a position of an ordinary political party that will try to remain in power no matter what. The AKP will keep the government as long as it gets along with the military and doesn’t scare away people. However, the ruling party’s way of administering the country will without doubt get tougher. A single man government, economic crisis, drifting apart from the European Union, chronic political issues are the current elements to speed up authoritarianism. Those who want to remain optimistic expect a return to the reform process of 2003 to 2004 with the potential votes the AKP to gain in the March local elections. It is impossible to understand why an AKP that has failed to show a commonsense of returning back to the reform process following the Apr. 27, 2007 e-memorandum and overwhelming victory in the July 22, 2007 elections should do this now. If the AKP had done it, it could’ve done it in 2007 and benefited from in 2008 and had a stronger hand today. The party preferred to stick with the good old political ways, until wherever it takesÉ
2009 is the foundation anniversary of key institutions and concepts that have appeared after the World War II. NATO was, being at the top, established on April 4, 1949 as one of the most important initiatives of that formidable hostility between the East and the West, or between as described then the Communist block and the Free World. Wretched at the end of the war, Europe this time had a nightmare of having a renewed war with the Soviet Union when NATO was established as a military/political structure under the U.S. leadership. NATO ratified membership of Turkey with that of Greece on Feb. 18, 1952. Today, it is a huge organization active in Eurasia with 26 members and 24 partners. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an institution that is serving away of the operation area of the Cold War; for instance in Afghanistan, but is unclear for whom it is in service. Next April, Albania and Croatia will become NATO members. Last August, memberships of Georgia and Ukraine were immediately brought on the agenda after Russia attacked Georgia. But we have seen no sign of progress in this direction so far. The issue still remains unresolved.
Another institution came to life in the aftermath of the war is the Council of Europe. Established on May 5, 1949 the council today has 47 members and five observers. This humongous structure is not functioning properly either. Intergovernmental structure of the council imposes that decisions should be made in the least common ground although they are non-binding. Its only function is the European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR. Turkey is not a founding member of the council, to the contrary of what is known. Turkey became a member of the council, together with Greece again, on Aug. 9, 1949! 2009 is the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s knocking the door of the European Economic Community for a membership in July 31, 1959. For instance Slovakia and Slovenia are two countries that hadn’t existed then. But today they are member states of the the European Union. 2009 is probably the year of destiny for our EU bid.
Another anniversary is the 20th year of the fall of the Iron Curtain; the end of a 44-year-old era where a conceptual and philosophical frame has been introduced since then for the defacto division of Europe and of the world. 1989 marked the closure of a long parenthesis opened in the Crimean city of Yalta in 1945, the reunification of Europe and the beginning of a new period of uncertainties in the world. It prepared today’s unipolar turning multi-polar world full of dangers against the bipolar world of yesterday about which the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had said "You will miss us a lot." Coincidentally, it is also the 30th anniversary of the recognition of China, as one of the main actors of the multi-polar world, by the United States.
3 Ocak 2009
But when it was President Vaclav Klaus’ turn to have meetings with, the mood soared. Known for his Euroskepticism, the Czech president is also a famous ultraliberal to such an extent that he told us in his article for the Financial Times on climate change and the environmental debacle that these are fabricated news and in any case the functioning of the market economy should never be bothered for such meaningless issues! I suppose he is not sleeping sound nowadays due to the heavy state interventions everywhere to survive the economic crisis we are experiencing. Le Monde gives the story behind the meeting with Klaus.
In his welcome address Klaus starts by complaining that he is unfairly accused of Euroskepticism. When his turn, EP Greens Group Chair Daniel Cohn-Bendit took out a small European Union flag of his pocket, as a reference to the absence of the EU flag in the presidential palace and said to Klaus, "As you are such a good friend of the EU, then let me present this flag to you." The Czech president ignores the gesture, Cohn-Bendit follows with questions. He mentions Decan Ganley of Libertas that played a crucial role in Ireland rejecting the Lisbon Treaty in the referendum. Ganley, accused of corruption by officials in Brussels, was honored by Klaus’s visit following the Irish vote. It is also possible that Klaus may support this ultraliberal businessman who considers forming an anti-EU party for the EP’s 2009 general elections.
Cohn-Bendit directly asks Klaus, "I would to know more about your friendship with Mr. Ganley from Ireland." Klaus turns to EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering and asks him to keep Cohn-Bendit quiet and give the floor to someone else. But this time Pöttering says since Klaus openly supported Ganley, the question is perfectly legitimate. From there on they got into a fray.
Klaus: "I must say that nobody has talked to me in such a style and tone for the past six years. You are not on the barricades in Paris here, [referring to Cohn-Bendit’s leadership in 1968]. This is incredible. I have never experienced anything like this before."
Cohn-Bendit: "Because we never met before."
Klaus: "I would not dare to ask how the activities of the Greens are funded."
Cohn-Bendit: "I didn’t ask you about funding. I asked about your political relation with Mr. Ganley. It is interesting how you link this to financing."
Klaus: "Cohn-Bendit is talking to me the way Soviets did."
Pöttering: "It is unacceptable to compare the European Parliament to the Soviet Union."
Klaus: "I meant the way of intervening"
Cohn-Bendit: " We don’t intervene with tanks."
It is not difficult to guess the atmosphere in the hall. Klaus then tried to explain that for his country there is not any other alternative but the EU, however, this is not with the current EU. He also said that during the Czechs’ term presidency he wants the end of irrational discussions over the intervention in markets. It is not difficult to see Klaus is awfully alone in the EU.
’A Europe without barriers’
In fact, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is not participating in the handing over ceremony and no EU flag will fly at the presidential palace in Prague. Prime Minister Topolanek keeps saying that if Czechs do not approve the Lisbon Treaty this will not be the end of the world, although they are the last two countries together with Sweden Ñ the other member state which will hold the presidency in 2009 Ñ that should ratify it. It is not easy to say that Czechs have completely understood political and economic situation in the EU. Czech motto for the term presidency is "A Europe without barriers." What a powerful claim! Removing all barriers in front of the free movement of goods, capital, services and citizens and opening to the United States, West Balkans and Eastern Europe. No word on Turkey in Czechs’ term presidency. I think they mean Turkey by "Eastern Europe." The enlargement will as a matter of fact, be on Czech’s agenda with 2009 being the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the fifth anniversary of the last big EU enlargement. A comprehensive "five year" evaluation is being considered. Let’s wish well for the inexperienced, but assertive Czechs.
27 Aralık 2008
With a bit of surprise, I am watching how Turkey is turning invert and becoming estranged from democratization and civil overtures and how the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP as you put it, has reached the limits of is political vision. In Brussels last week we met with top-level officials. I found an EU stance that has completely plummeted to the depths of its own problems and afraid of carrying a huge potential like Turkey due to the seriousness of its problems and turning this emotional reflex into a political attitude. I observed this first time I should say. Turkey, unfortunately, is consisting now of a more military and more anti-democratic AKP in the eye of the EU. For instance, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn’s marginalization on the Cyprus issue is an indicator... As for the Cyprus issue, let me write it down in various headings: 1. Negotiations have not really started. Both sides are presenting their own views. Nevertheless we cannot say that there is no progress or accord. In some chapters, like Judiciary or Legislature, sides are almost completely in agreement. 2. Discussions before the public through the press put us in a hard spot. Caution and refraining from this sort of publicity we offered to the Greek Cypriot leader Dimitri Christophias were regrettably not accepted. 3. The AKP has provided full political support to settlement talks and for the solution of the issue. Questioning after concerns felt here over internal developments of Turkey revealed the utmost support is still given by the government to the talks. This is a crystal-clear fact... Apparently, the Turkish Foreign Ministry is not pleased with the process since TRNC’s President Mehmet Ali Talat is the one who is making decisions though they work together. 4. Christophias is acting constructive to a certain degree. He is drawing a great deal of attention in international community and has more positive political image, compared to that of the Turkish side. It seems that he is eager inside, in meetings, too. But Christophias says, "I am not in a hurry, I cannot be." He reasons that Greek Cypriots are not ready for a settlement. 5. President Talat carries a heavy burden. He very well knows about Turkey’s role in the solution of the Cyprus issue. For this reason, Talat is trying to act with the thought of not causing any difficulty to the AKP’s determination for solution of the issue before the eyes of the Turkish public opinion. This attitude gives an image of a leader who is too pro-Turkey and not enough pro-solution. Compared to his 2004 period, he has turned into a leader hard to understand. Talat’s attitude is causing cold relations with Christophias and a certain degree of loss of political prestige in the world’s public opinion. (I would like to bring President Talat’s speech at Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe to your attention.) But if it is necessary to look at his posture at the table and texts he signed and then make an evaluation, we know that he was the most constructive, understanding, empathetic and effective one at the negotiation table. But this is not being reflected outside. As you may know, Christophias, a while ago, said Talat was talking differently inside and outside the room and we had reacted against the Cypriot Greek leader but he was partially right. After all these however, I am of the opinion that Christophias actually wants to set the score with Turkey! The Cypriot Greek leader is after increasing his power in society by being successful in this payoff. First of all, Christophias is AKEL’s leader and in this process he cannot definitely accept any loss of vote for AKEL. His party is a goal for Christophias and at this point he could even sacrifice the Cyprus issue for AKEL if necessary, as he openly supported the late leader Tassos Papadopoulos. Right now, he prefers to act together with Papadopoulos’ party DIKO, rather than resolving the Cyprus issue as soon as possible by acting with DISI, the party of the former leader Glafcos Klerides having 35 percent of votes and supporting him in the Cyprus issue. This has a simple reason because Christophias knows AKEL will never steal any votes of DISI. The only way to gain votes for him is nationalist central right, that is DIKO; and he knows it very well. As setting the score with Turkey is a "foolish" political attitude for DISI administration and a "must" for DIKO. In this sense, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that Christophias is a hero or a pawn of the anti-Turkey EU countries on one side and a nationalist Cypriot Greek community on the other. I think Christophias will use the ports issue that will be on the agenda during the EU summit at the end of 2009 as a trump card. However, setting the score with Turkey is an obstacle before the solution and that’s another issue... We also know that Christophias’ insisting on offshore oil research in the Mediterranean will push a reactive country like Turkey toward a negative direction very easily. The ancient Cyprus issue has become a deadlock finally and perhaps this is something desirable for some people... Lately, liberal intellectuals in Turkey are taking a distance stance toward the Cyprus issue as far as I see. I wish I am wrong but this is how I feel. Articles announcing that the Cyprus issue cannot be resolved are quite meaningful in this sense. However, for both democratic circles in Turkey and for TRNC it is necessary to take side with the president in this period. I believe that there is still a democratic pro-EU group here that is worth to be supported. Best regards"
20 Aralık 2008
As it has always been, discussions over taboo-like issues proceed in two parallel, yet sometimes tangent, courses. The first is common primitive recitations and reactions of people who are loyal to the taboo.
The other is a discussion over the content of the demand, what it should be about and what it should be not, and how it is voiced. The first group of reactions is the statement of the obvious. These are nothing but cliches, defenses, statements and the rhetoric over the denial based on plenty of martyrs and traitors.
During the last century the negationist camp advocated that the Armenian question is a complete fabrication, meaning essentially that Armenians vaporized in a few years from Anatolia where they had lived for 4,000 years. But of course, the guardians of the temple, i.e. the state and pro-state politicians, are behind such attitude. Their unique criterion is to love the country in the only way they know how. People who act against this are accused of treason, labeled as traitors. This has been so for exactly a century, since the hawkish pro-military wing of the Committee of Union and Progress took over power in 1909. No change has been seen in the content of warnings, threats and insults.
The other group consists of people who like to disapprove and to give constant advice. Constructive discussions are always useful and they should be maintained. But the support and participation in the campaign have dragged the intellectual debate into a completely different ground. The participants have changed the debate into something different from a classical debate between intellectuals and they have opened the Armenian issue into discussions on a level unheard of before. On the Armenian question, a new and different word, other than the discourses of denial or sadness, is being uttered in Turkey.
As for the Armenian world, be it in Turkey, Armenia or among the diaspora, a deep sense of gratitude is visible together with some kind of annoyance, especially in the diaspora institutions. The debate continues over there as well.
In the end, the real determinant here is the people of Turkey, of any age and from any cities or profession who have listened to their voice of conscience and participated in the campaign.They pitched into the campaign by knowing that what a terrible taboo this issue is and that the communities they may belong to will not approve this at all. They had the guts to sign, especially in a country where apologizing is regarded generally as a dishonorable act, and in a intellectual environment where even the most ambitious pen-slingers fail to apologize while agreeing with the rest of the text.
To curb the desire of change and normalization in Turkey that started in 1983 is impossible. The process can only be interrupted; and as a matter of fact there is such danger nowadays. But in the long-run, water always finds its course and the past realities that have been ignored since the formation of the nation-state will come back to the agenda.
That, the European Union membership process is certainly the most essential vector of the "Turkish Enlightenment" and the murder of the Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink are perhaps the turning-points of this enlightenment.
This campaign is not a discussion over the genocide. It is the participants’ voice of conscience. It is not the campaign of a few intellectuals and writers as put by the Prime Minister. These people have only initiated the opportunity and offered the medium. From now on, in Turkey and abroad, in Armenia and in the diaspora, everyone taking up the Armenian issue will have to pay attention to the existence of 14,000 people from Turkey who listened to their voice of conscience and participated in the campaign. From now on, they will be the new factor of this century-old dispute and discussion.
13 Aralık 2008
This year, an excuse has been found for this bloody ritual which has nothing to do with religious precepts of sacrificing animals for Allah to mark the end of Hajj. The European Union delegation coming over to monitor animal sacrificing was responded as "Look at yourself" for whaling incidents.
What a relief it was for them. Mr. Know-it-All-Except-Environmental-Matters, Environment Minister Veysel Eroğlu being at top, no one made any effort to recognize the EU’s labors to stop whaling and that no EU country is actually whaling except non-EU members Iceland, Japan and Norway.
PM’s tough dealing with the economy The AKP won the July 22 general elections for mainly economic reasons, but they are focusing on ideological reasoning in order not to jeopardize the March 2009 local elections. The Prime Minister’s "fear of economy" is understandable. But if he had known that he won the last polls thanks to a good economy, Erdoğan would have been more realistic about the local elections, taken immediate preventive measures and applied a full blown communication strategy regarding the economic crisis.
His current faltering attitude and insistence on overseeing the seriousness of the economic crisis indicate that Erdoğan relies on constituents who are blindly following the AKP ideology. Although his calculation may work a little on March 29, the AKP government will have to manage many crises in the aftermath and face the risk of being crushed under all. The AKP is being trapped today. Its own political choice of pro-status quo plays a big role in it. But as it is cornering itself, AKP also is blocking Turkey’s way. The danger is that the AKP had no choice but to turn into a statist party irreversibly, transforming thereby the reformist period into a long-term restoration period.
On Turks’ migration The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ data show citizens of Turkey ranked as the ninth on the list, with 220,000 refuges, according to world asylum statistics. The figure is not huge but crucial for giving hints of how Turkey treats its citizens and what kind hardship refugees endure before leaving their countries. Citizens of EU member countries and candidate countries are rare among refugees. That means we are taking a different route.