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Cengiz Aktar

Erdoğan and AKP had begun to change in 2005

6 Aralık 2008

Through expressions of astonishment, the European Union officials and a certain foreign press are suddenly discovering the anti-reformist AKP. However, the AKP ceased to be an unusual reformist party four years ago. And I have kept stressing this for years. Let us recall.

More European Union, contrary to the assumptions, will be useful for the AKP government. Is it possible to deny how functional the European Union process is in the success of the government? Both inside and outside, the AKP is reinforcing legitimacy through the European Union membership bid.

And the legitimacy will be sustained as long as the party supports this bid. The AKP will lose control and harm itself if gives credit to anti-European Union nationalist groups. Today, a determination inside the AKP to bring the European Union bid back to the agenda is being looked for. Dec. 30, 2005

In fact, the AKP is the tenant of nationalist ideology not the owner. It is vital both for the party and for the country, if the AKP takes political steps by taking this fact into consideration. Sept. 26, 2006

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A disastrous Public Procurement Bill

29 Kasım 2008

In the explanatory part of the by-law there are undue references to European Union harmonization requirements. The law passed with the support of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the EU in 2002, was in line with EU’s public procurement directives of the time. However, it has today turned completely to an opposite way due to the changes the AKP made to eliminate all basic principles, whereas the EU adopted new directives for more transparency and accountability.

Bearing the real purpose in mind, the claim that the new standards such as the new EU procedure "dynamic procurement system," and the "electronic tender," make the last amendment necessary is ridiculous. And the real purpose with this legislation is to open the door for the ruler, i.e. the AKP government, to allow arbitrary and unlimited use of public resources by its acquaintances to enrich them and thereby to indirectly finance party’s operations. Now several people will come forward to defend that the old capital also exploited this very system and now the rising pious elite is accumulating capital; a mentality of "now it is my turn to rob." The figure is colossal: According to the Country Procurement Assessment Report, or CPAR, published by the World Bank in 2001, goods and services bought by the state amounts to 16 to 18 percent of the Gross National Product, or GNP. If we assume the GNP will be about YTL 950 billion, 18 percent of it makes about YTL 170 billion.

Going back to the old system with the AKP Despite the warnings of the EU, some professional associations, the Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association, or TUSIAD, and even the Public Tender Agency, or KIK, the legislation is now at odds with transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption.

The KIK has ripped off the authority to conduct ex-officio inspections on tenders to see whether they are proper. The number of derogations exempted from inspections are being increased and the KIK’s tender decisions are kept away from administrative judicial control.

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Prime Minister’s foreign trips

22 Kasım 2008
Speaking abroad, Erdoğan says Turkey proceeds on its way to become a European Union member and will not deviate from it. I think the audience cannot help themselves but to laugh. There are other subjects that are voiced as well.

This time, Erdoğan made an inapt remark that Iran should have nuclear military power. It seems that he is not briefed by the Foreign Ministry and is consulting with his close circles only. The essence of his statement was not wrong but how he put that into word was important. Former French President Jacques Chirac had adopted a similar attitude too but no one showed him the reaction Erdoğan was shown.

For in the end, what is most rational is to acknowledge that Iran could possess nuclear power and yet to normalize the country by dragging it into the international arena from which it has been excluded since 1979.

I think while the prime minister was supporting Iranian nuclear power his close aides said, "Let’s mediate between Iran and the U.S." As a matter of fact, news stories like "Turkey is a mediator between the U.S. and Iran" have suddenly started to spread around. It is beyond ridiculous that Turkey, incapable of bringing peace to itself, now becomes eager to settle every dispute around. The founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, hadn’t said, "Peace at home, peace in the world"?

Let’s take the Nagorno Karabakh issue as we speak of Turkey’s assertiveness for being a mediator. The only trump card Turkey has in hand here is positive dialogue to be developed with Armenia after establishing diplomatic ties and opening the border. The issue is a long-term pedagogical process. Perhaps in the future Karabakh will have its turn.

But for today, is there a will for a common solution voiced by Azerbaijan and Armenia except the insignificant declaration they signed earlier this month in the Russian capital Moscow? No! During his lifetime late Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev’s had a total of 22 meetings with different Armenian presidents. Delegations of the sides met more than 60 times since 1995. And the Karabakh issue was certainly not the only agenda item in these meetings.

Turkey’s tough relation with the global economic crisis

The main objective of Erdoğan’s visit to the U.S. was the G-20 meeting. The prime minister must have been listening to the remarks that the crisis is serious this time, as he read something close to reality from a sheet in front of him at the press briefing he held upon his return.

Erdoğan, who despite all warnings for months has insisted that the crisis wouldn’t strike Turkey, finally announced that Turkey will face the crisis for the next six month beginning from Jan.1, 2009. As though the crisis is paying a visit to Turkey. It was in fact enough for him to go in the Turkish Main Street to see how real it is.

The government is not in a hurry for crisis management, nor for taking preventive measures. The unwillingness to accept the crisis and the concerns about it that have turned into a phobia, are of course something to do with the March 2009 local elections. The 48 percent election victory in July 22, 2007 polls was based on economic interests rather than ideological preferences of the people. This is very well known by Erdoğan. This time in fact, the governing party may not have the expected results.

This is the reason why Mr. Prime Minister and his party are adopting a nationalist hawkish attitude rather than taking economic measures. Obviously, we are being pushed into an environment where fuel is added to the fire.

The crisis this time is quite different than the one we went through in 2001. We desperately need foreign capital and export. In economic dire straits full of uncertainties it is extremely dangerous to create tension because a huge group of idle and unemployed is about to come out to lend an ear to nationalist remarks of the government.
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Highlights of the week

15 Kasım 2008

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and President Abdullah Gül are gradually drifting apart, both in style and in opinion. Erdoğan, as the leader of the executive body, is losing his ability to run the country day by day and is presenting a picture of a lonely and ill-tempered politician. Gül, to the contrary, seems calm and reasonable as though he is an authority of a different country.

However, it would be beneficial if the President made a careful assessment of his supra-party position, refrained from pitching into every single issue and rather focus on some specific matters because he does not have sufficient staff, nor the time or authority to accomplish all tasks. Therefore, his initiatives run the risk of getting lost in cyberspace.

It would be enough for the President to be involved in the European Union accession works, bilateral relations with Armenia and the Kurdish issue. All of these, in fact, could take up all of his time in office. But besides dry rhetoric, he needs to counter the government on all these hot topics. On the EU, Gül will be convincing when he turns down EU-related laws passed by the government for their incompatibility with EU rules. As for the Kurdish issue, he will prove his supra-party position of embracing the entire nation when he issues counter-statements to the Prime Minister’s exclusionary remarks toward Kurds. Regarding Armenian relations, he will facilitate positive results if he inspires modesty among officials of the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

’Obama, make no mistake and don’t make us lose our patience!’ Everyone in the world was happy to see Barack Obama chosen as president-elect and Joe Biden, labeled as the "Enemy of Turks," as vice president of the United States; everyone except Turkish politicians and "statesmen." The problem is, he may utter the word "genocide." Obama may also emphasize a democratic approach to sensitive issues, more than his predecessors. He may incline toward multi-party diplomacy, which Turkey does not like at all, despite being elected to the United Nations Security Council. And perhaps most crucially, Obama may insist on constructive relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government despite Turkey not liking to even pronounce its proper name, shyly calling it the "Northern Iraq Regional Administration!" At this juncture, access to the official KRG site, www.krg.org, is denied in Turkey even though the KRG was formed by the Iraqi Constitution, which Turkey recognizes.

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The 11th Progress Report

7 Kasım 2008

I recall how dull the progress reports of 2000 and 2001 were because of the then-coalition government’s failure to deliver on EU harmonization. The reports had no substance and were pointing out retreat rather than progress. This year’s report reminds me those reports. It is a fact that the government did nothing noteworthy in EU work over the last four years.

Rather it found so many different excuses not to go for it. The report contains rambling suggestions like “hurry up in reforms” and points at deficiencies that have been repeated time and again throughout the years. It seems that the report this time is kept short in order not to talk more negative.

Loss of interest at max
On the EU side, a tactic of exaggeration is the case, like in the past four progress reports. Even the most ordinary work is included in the report. The best example is Turkey’s successes in world-famous foreign policy stories that happen only in dreams (with the exception of President Abdullah Gül’s visit to the Armenian capital Yerevan). The report praises positive diplomacy Turkey follows as though it was a major acquis chapter. Another point of appraisal becomes the “working market economy.” Although nothing much has changed since last year, Turkey has been declared a market economy. Frankly there must have been nothing better to state.

As a matter of fact, both parties suffer lack of interest in Turkey’s EU prospects. The Turkish government has been making excuses about the EU bid since 2005. When I wrote this before nobody seemed to care, yet now this unwillingness is being universally admitted. The EU side shows no sensitivity though. Even the most passionate friends of Turkey in the bloc cannot offer anything solid but the same old preaches and incentives. No one is interested to prop up the process.

The EU is pre-occupied by the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty, the Georgian crisis that broke out in early August and now the global financial crisis. Turkey’s accession to the union has no priority compared to these problems. With this state of mind we will welcome 2009. There are two EU-term presidencies up and coming – first a well intentioned yet inexperienced Czech Republic and then Sweden will take the helm. If the impacts of the global financial crisis and the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland continue to be the problems, already-weakened Turkey-EU relations may take a turn for the worse in late 2009. There are no chapters remaining to be opened, except “Information Society and Media” and “Free Movement of Capital.”

In this foggy picture, the only ray of hope is that settlement talks in Cyprus may lead to possible overtures for a permanent solution in 2009. Negotiations for eight chapters, which have been suspended due to Cyprus deadlock, may be resumed.

It is difficult to say the government and decision-makers, in general, have understood the value of the EU membership process in this global financial crisis environment. For instance Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu, chairman of the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, or TOBB, while talking about the financial crisis did not include the EU among the anchors Turkey needs to save itself. As we take a turn into a period where everyone is trying to save themselves and as the local elections in March 2009 are approaching, it is very doubtful that the EU accession bid will be remembered.

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