Cengiz Aktar

The military: ’The grand speechless’

11 Temmuz 2009
Global military spending in 2008 reached a historical record high of $1464 billion. This is twice that of Turkey’s GDP. Expenditure increased by 4 percent compared to 2007 and 45 percent compared to a decade ago. This incredibly high figure is approximately 2.5 percent of the world’s total GDP. With the exception of Western and Eastern European countries, there is no country not increasing its military spending, observes the annual Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, report released in June.

U.S. military expenditures during former U.S. President George W. Bush’s eight-year nightmare tenure reached the highest since World War II on account of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The withdrawal from Iraq will take time and the war that will be intensified in Afghanistan will continue to place a sizable burden on U.S. military expenditures and of course economy. Russia is one of the countries increasing its military expenditure. Despite serious economic problems, our neighbor keeps transferring money to its military. The lion’s share in military spendings in Asia belongs to China, India, South Korea and Taiwan.

In Africa, the oil-rich Algeria increased military spending 18 percent to total of 5.2 billion in 2008.In Turkey, military expenditure jumped about a half billion dollars, from $11.155 billion in 2007 to 11.663 billion in 2008. To examine the SIPRI report on Turkey’s military spending for the period 1989-2008 please follow the link below: http://milexdata.sipri.org/result.php4

Unconditionally loyal and apolitical

The Modern French Army, resembling very much the Turkish army in structure, was built on two basic principles since the French Revolution and up until the 5th Republic founded by Charles de Gaule in 1958. The first is unconditional loyalty of the armed forces to legitimate governments. The military is a passive tool in government's hands because the administration can fulfill responsibilities only if the armed forces are 'unconscious'. What I mean here by unconsciousness is that in such armed forces' commanders blindly follow the directives of government without expressing any ideas because questioning orders makes the state and politics dysfunctional.

The principle of unconditional and unquestionable loyalty forms the basis of the principle of apoliticality. The judgments, tendencies and sympathies of commanders of the armed forces cannot be revealed; they are even treated as non-existent. Political passivity is the essence. Even though the loyalty of the armed forces needs to shift through government changes, their loyalty is in essence, to the people of the country. The French Army is always the 'grand speechless'. This is the opposite of today’s 'accountability' principle. The reason is that the armed forces should have no say or they should have a say only on their military performance.

The armed forces mechanism in Turkey, of course, is not functioning in this manner. The Turkish Armed Forces, or the TSK, continually comment on political issues and determine the political agenda by expressing opinion or sympathy. And where they should really speak to give an account on military activities, including the internal security and military expenditure, they are speechless. The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation, or TESEV, sponsored "Almanac Turkey 2006-2008 Security Sector and Democratic Oversight" edited by Ali Bayramoğlu and Ahmet İnsel was published this week. A timely venture. Civilian control and oversight is almost impossible in a country where security is understood solely in military terms. Like in the maxim attributed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: "If the motherland is at stake the rest is just a detail" approach.

Here are some chapters: Unbearable autonomy of military justice; the military’s dominance over the century-old struggle with the so-called 'religious backwardness and banditry'; the absolute decision making power of the military over military procurement and its non-accountability; the transformation of the security concept in light of relations with NATO and the European Union. The almanac also focuses on both media and public opinion in regard to the security sector, education and national security, civilian control over special security services, including the village guardianship, the place of the National Intelligence Organization, or MIT, among security institutions, the weight of the gendarmeries’ military nature over internal security, and restructuring of the police department based on security during the 1980-ies post-military coup era. It is worth reading!
Yazının Devamını Oku

Sweden’s EU term presidency

3 Temmuz 2009
On Wednesday Sweden took over the helmet for the European Union term presidency. Sweden will face a quite difficult term. Even preparations for the decision about Turkey to be taken at the end of the year are enough to be handled in a six-month term presidency. Sweden is a country that has already grasped the importance of Turkey’s integration with the EU and uttering it by any chance. No matter who is in the government, this policy has never changed in Sweden. Just like the U.S. administration.

At the cost of exasperating French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, neither Sweden nor the United States hesitate to express their opinions on the subject. Sarkozy canceled a trip to Sweden when the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt made pro-Turkey remarks to the French daily Le Figaro in May. Turkey is again the reason why Sarkozy frequently answers back to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Bildt and his team didn’t wait for the last minute. They have been back and forth between Europe, Turkey and Cyprus and have now set up the "Cyprus Working Group" in Stockholm. Sweden long ago realized the crucial effect of Cyprus reunification talks over Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU particularly and its relations with the EU generally.

Similarly, an informal group, "Like-minded countries on Turkey’s EU membership," formed in Ankara, is gathering pace. The group initiated by Britain, Italy, Spain and Sweden expanded with the participation of Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Hungary and Poland. Denmark and the Netherlands are said to be providing occasional support to the group, that may be reinforced in the months to come. On the other side, elections in Germany scheduled for Sept. 27 will show if the new German government will be at odds with Swedish and Spanish efforts regarding our negotiations. I personally do not expect an anti-Turkey coalition in Germany this fall.

Friendly EU presidencies

A new negotiation chapter was opened during the Intergovernmental Conference. The 11th chapter is about taxation. And Turkey promised to review taxes on all tobacco products by the end of the year. However, there couldn’t be any more chapters opened during Sweden’s EU term presidency despite all. I kept saying for years: Turkey which cannot see the end of the road regarding its accession and is being insulted by Sarkozy-likes, can neither make any more concessions in trade nor make any pre-spending required for the opening of new chapters. It seems that the government is hiding behind this impossibility and failing to conduct the EU works. But nothing is over yet. When Sarkozy decided to suspend five negotiation chapters in June 2007 and his administration tried like a child to get involved in every single sentence about "accession" uttered in Brussels, we should have called France to diplomatic account. This still can be done.

Despite all odds, the situation is quite conducive until the end of 2011. Now Sweden, then Spain, Belgium, Hungary and Poland will become term presidents during a two-and-a-half year period. All are pro-Turkey. In the meantime, we should exert efforts to clear the way for the opening of new negotiation chapters. In this context, we have to deal with Sarkozy's opposition. The "Turkey Season" in France activities that will continue for nine months will be a way to have direct communication. So is Istanbul, European Capital of Culture in 2010.

In parallel, the government should strongly support a solution in Cyprus and most importantly ask EU countries to utter an accession date. Once a membership date is uttered or discussed, the rest will come.

It is a must to break-up Sarkozy-likes’ monopoly over statements and messages against Turkey’s EU bid. The counter-messages should at least be as serious and thought provoking as his. When Sarkozy says, "No matter what you do, you will never be an EU member", pro-Turkey countries usually say, "Don’t worry. They treated us badly too. Be patient and work hard." But this is enough no more!

Pro-Turkey countries should be able to say as loudly as possible, "We want to see Turkey among us until such and such date." And they should say it in Europe not here. This is the communication we need.
Yazının Devamını Oku

Post-electoral Iran and the AKP government

27 Haziran 2009
Iran has not found peace since the presidential elections. Over time, the opposition movement will calm down and the Iranian Revolution will continue its path. However, nothing will ever be the same. What is happening in Iran reflects discontent within the regime rather than a counter-revolution. Turkey’s government was quick to congratulate incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad following the elections. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davudoğlu said that the Iranian elections were held at the end of an environment of open discussion. 

He said that in this multi-candidate election the post-electoral developments, he hopes, won't cast a shadow over political participation. Davudoğlu underlined that high voter turnout in the elections was a positive development.

Regarding the riots, "We see this as a domestic issue of Iran and hope that the Iranian people and authorities will reach the most accurate decision," he said.

A political vocabulary excluding pluralism

There cannot be any better expression of the idea that democracy means only elections and politics consists of only the winner’s performances.

We already knew that the AKP government’s political vocabulary doesn’t include pluralism and participatory democracy, but we are confirmed once again. Besides, it is extremely doubtful that the election was fair, even by Davudoğlu’s standards.

In fact, among over 300 candidates, the Revolutionary Guards only approved four. This is just like the permission that today’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not given in the 2002 general elections in Turkey! According to journalist Ayşe Önal, who closely follows Iran, Ahmadinejad tried to prevent a "map" from emerging in Iran by rigging the elections. That was just like the three-colored map drawn following the March 29 local polls in Turkey to depict a Turkey divided into: coastal cities-Central Anatolia-the Kurdish region.

Not a single observer expected the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Mousavi to win.

But the regime was trying to block elections results that would reveal the 30-year-old Iranian Revolution is not in a rose garden and that the discontent is felt mostly in cities. Despite every effort the revelation is there.

Turkish foreign policy: independent yet realpolitik

As for the international dimensions of the elections, the government's position, as well as Foreign Minister’s statements supporting Ahmadinejad, are in harmony with the previous foreign policy line. Starting with the cartoon crisis, continuing with Hamas leader Khaled Mashal’s and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s Ankara visits, the unconditional pro-Hamas attitude, the Davos incident and the Rasmussen row Ñ these are challenges to Turkey's otherwise western allies positions'. This time again,

Turkey was at odds with its allies in the Iranian post-election developments.

What is going on in Iran is not something that can be overlooked by a dull "realpolitik" approach, or in other words, by "good neighborhood relations and no interference in domestic issues."

Discontent in our neighbor will, sooner or later, influence the region and have side effects. We should expect a tougher regime in Iran and a helix of disasters due to Israel’s involvement as a result of atomic bomb production in Iran.

The only course of action that may prevent the inferno is to develop new partnerships with the West, a course advocated by Mousavi. It is self-evident that the Turkish government, making pretentious claims and trying to bring Turkey to central stage, cannot generate any proactive policies when it comes to democratic evolution in neighboring countries. This goes for Azerbaijan and Armenia too.

Don’t democratic weaknesses lay behind the problems of all these countries, the problems that affect us at times? Does the Turkish government pronounce the word "democracy" in dialogues with these countries? Unfortunately not.
Yazının Devamını Oku

World Refugee Day

20 Haziran 2009
Saturday, June 20, is World Refugee Day, the day for people probably in the worst condition. It is the day for those who have no place to go, the poorest of the poor, whom we hear of only when they drown in the seas or die of no air in truck containers. Two stories about them. Recently, the return home of approximately 12,000 Kurds from Turkey who were living in the village of Mahmur near the northern Iraqi city of Arbil was on the agenda again.

Residents of Mahmur are from the southeastern Turkish provinces of Siirt, Şırnak and Hakkari. When they were caught in the middle of fire between 1992 and 1994, they took refuge in Iraq. First they were placed in the Atrush camp and in Mahmur after 1999.

The people’s assembly of 45 residents in Mahmur and the town council consisting of three women and 12 men govern Mahmur. The municipal council is elected on a yearly basis. Services and infrastructure works are achieved with funds provided by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, and Kurdistan Regional Government. In schools built by the UNHCR, 100 volunteer teachers serve 3,500 students. Courses are in Kurdish. Turkish, like English, is taught as a second language. Some high school graduates continue higher education at Salahaddin University in Arbil.

One of the specialties people in Mahmur have is their ability to fatten up sheep by natural methods. Thanks to their ancient know-how, they are popular in the region. With these, one can say that they are doing better in Mahmur than in Turkey. But the lack of security in Iraq and longing at some point make this comfort meaningless.

The return of residents in Mahmur was brought to the agenda first time in 2004 in a reformist atmosphere. As a result of talks among Turkey, the interim Iraqi government and the UNHCR with the supervision of United States, the parties reached an agreement. But the document was never signed and put into force. In these meetings, Turkish-Kurds living in Mahmur were given guarantees of not to be punished upon return. However, they were not promised neither for education in Kurdish nor financial aid for living. Closing Mahmur camp and return of refugees were discussed in bilateral talks between Başer and Ralston in 2007.

For the purpose, an arm search was conducted under U.S. and UNHCR’s observation by security forces of Baghdad and Kurdistan region. It appeared in the end that there is neither outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party presence, or PKK, nor weapons in the camp. Afterwards, a census was carried out and refugee identity cards were distributed. Only thing left was to fill out the forms for "voluntary repatriation" in accordance with international law. Behind the wheeling and dealing of recent days, something totally different is going on.

Apparently, the military and civilian bureaucracy is considering closing down Mahmur as part of eradicating the PKK. In other words, the radical approach in solving the Kurdish problem actually has never changed.

A solution to the Mahmur camp agreeable by all parties is a solid and meaningful test for Turkey’s Kurdish policy. The solution is of importance in terms of taking care of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin but also in humanitarian and political terms.

’They Had Faith in Turkey’ exhibition

Since the beginning of April, an exhibition has been on display in various venues in Istanbul about European and Asian kings, princes and groups of people who were granted asylum in the Ottoman Empire and in Turkey. "They Had Faith in Turkey" is the name of this amateur activity held under the auspices of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The exhibition was on display in various countries before.

I think the aim is to let the entire world know that this land embraces refugees and has welcomed kings and administrators since ancient times, when they were in trouble. I should, however, add "as every land and every state does." Since human history is the history of wars, it is also of mass displacements. There always were countless people migrating from their own land. States have always protected the enemies of their enemies, looked for ways to use them as trump cards, by granting them asylum. Those who were welcomed by the Ottomans equal to those who fled from the Ottomans.

Likewise, those who were forced to leave were attractive for states pursuing population engineering. Population, especially if skillful, is valuable. After the Spanish reconquista, 180,000 Jews kicked out by Catholic Spaniards were brought to Thessaloniki and Istanbul by Ottoman Sultan Beyazıd.

The reason was competition with the Catholic world but also the aim to repopulate large areas with skilled, urban Jews. And this, of course, even if it’s a petty calculation, saved Jews from extinction.

We see a continuation of the Ottoman policy, which went down in the history as a "historic Jewish friendship," in the Republican period. Although the same pragmatic approach is seen in the establishment of the university by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, thanks to European Jewish professors fleeing Nazism, the latter survived thanks to this policy.

During the Holocaust, some Turkish diplomats in Europe rescued European Jews by obeying solely their own consciences, not as the application of an official policy.

We notice this in the ill treatment of some other Jews who directly took refuge in Turkey during the war.

Frankly, the attitude stuck between political calculations and tolerance in the Ottoman and early Republic periods is of no importance anymore considering the outrageous treatment refugees are subjected to today in Turkey.

It is difficult to say that Turkey is consistent about international law and its own obligations. Indeed refugee law and its implementation can hardly go beyond the "They Had Faith in Turkey" exhibition.
Yazının Devamını Oku

The EP elections

13 Haziran 2009
The results of the European Parliament, or EP, elections that were held last weekend did not send a good signal. The European Union is somehow failing to pull itself up as its self-confidence diminishes steadily. Now we have an introverted, timid Europe afraid of almost everything while the U.S. administration searches for a new dialogue with the world. The number-one reason is the politicians in the EU. Average and narrow-minded politicians leading small worlds are the biggest obstruction to integration and economic recovery in Europe. The way they present national solutions to European and global problems is just appalling.

Citizens and societies in the bloc have long been governed by EU decisions. Two-thirds of laws and regulations affecting the lives of individuals and societies are decided in Brussels. Despite this, EU citizens have no idea how the EU functions. Politicians in the EU countries have never explained why neither the Union nor its institutions were established, what their functions are, how they operate or how they affect the lives of their citizens. Another reason for citizens’ lack of knowledge is the education system. No EU country designs curricula by considering its EU membership.

Except for a few initiatives, an EU citizen continues to live and work in the Union, but thinks strictly nationally. So they are not interested in the EP elections, or in EU affairs in general. In fact, in many EU countries, politicians who are not popular anymore in the national political system get nominated for the EP!

A parliament getting more bizarre after every election
Direct elections to the EP have been held since 1979. Previously, as with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, the EP consisted of representatives from national parliaments. With the direct elections, the EU’s executive body, the European Commission, is renewed as well. But the EP has limited decision-making authority over binding decisions.

This time around, a total of 736 representatives were elected to represent 492 million EU citizens. No single party in power increased its votes, or even maintained them, for that matter. In all EU countries, hostility against government parties Ğ most likely triggered by the economic crisis Ğ was translated into votes. In France and Germany, the main opposition parties did not take advantage of the consequences of the economic turmoil. But in Austria, Britain, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania and Sweden, populist and vulgar anti-EU parties made substantial gains thanks to the general nihilism.

The Greens’ performance in France, Greece and Hungary is also worth mentioning. Voters aware of this fragile situation in the world have pushed green politics to the forefront. Finally, the very low turnout in some new member states can be seen as an expression of disenchantment with Europe, and especially with Chancellor Merkel’s refusal to support their economies.

In the last parliament, there were six members of Turkish origin. They are only four in the new EP. Members Emine Bozkurt from the Netherlands and Metin Kazak and Filiz Hüsmenova from Bulgaria were re-elected, while in Germany, Social Democrat Party candidate İsmail Ertuğ made it to the EP. Of course, this does not mean that they will follow a pro-Turkey policy in parliament.

During the last legislature, members of the EP finally realized that EU membership is not only about harmonization on political matters and started to pay attention to matters in Turkey. A study titled "Report on Women’s Rights in Turkey," prepared by Member of the EP Bozkurt is a good example.

With this, we have seen that the EP, contrary to previous parliaments, has gradually stopped blaming Turkey in every single incident. I hope this learning trend continues and that more issues, such as organic farming and regional policy, are examined in special reports.

There is no reason to say that the new EP is definitely against Turkey. Besides, no voting on any vital decision of great interest to Turkey will take place in the new legislature.

Also good news for Turkey is the election results in Greek Cyprus. Pro-solution parties like the liberal DISI and communist AKEL won 70 percent of the votes. That is a good development that bodes well for the reunification of the island, as it will strengthen the hands of both negotiators, Christofias and Talat.
Yazının Devamını Oku

Young-dynamic but unqualified-unemployed

6 Haziran 2009
A group of young, dynamic and qualified economists working under the name the Economists’ Platform released the results of a study on May 19, Youth and Sports Day. According to their report, youth are the group affected worst by the economic crisis, with unemployment among people ages 15 to 24 approaching 30 percent. You must have heard Turkish image-makers use the country’s "young and dynamic population" as evidence of its present and future influence.

Yes, Turkey has a young and dynamic population. I have not seen any young people who are not dynamic. No wonder youngsters are called "delikanlı," or hot-blooded, in Turkish.

However, the important thing is whether this dynamic population is qualified. And on this point, we see a different story.

The United Nations Development Program, or UNDP’s, "Population and Demography Report - 2002" indicated that Turkey has taken a turn in which the number of 15- to 65-year-olds who are eligible to work has reached its highest level ever.

Before Turkey, South Korea quite successfully benefited from this "demographic window of opportunity" that is vital for economic development. The necessary condition, however, is good education and long-term economic planning. In fact, if the population is unqualified, it may actually block development.

Look at the results of research conducted in May 2008 by Bahçeşehir University’s Economic Research Center, or BETAM: In Turkey, the number of young people between the ages of 15 and 19 is 6.3 million. They have pathetic education levels and work potential.

About 1.6 million boys and 1.9 million girls are not attending school. Sixteen percent of boys and 72 percent of girls who are uneducated have only a primary-school diploma. Yes, some are working. But they face miserable working conditions. Most have no social security and work more than 40 hours a week.

Ratio of unemployed youth increases

In the current economic crisis, the ratio of unemployed youth jumped from 17 percent to 28 percent. Two million young people between the ages of 15 and 19 - 600,000 of whom are boys and 1.4 million of whom are girls - are not attending school, not working and not looking for a job.

Another survey conducted by BETAM, this one focusing on children ages 6 to 14 and released in April 2009, reveals that there are 320,000 children at work in Turkey - 207,000 boys and 113,000 girls. Of these children, 70,000 of the boys and 55,000 of the girls are not attending school, and 30,000 have never received an education. Some 204,000 of these children are unpaid, as they are working with their families, and 109,000 children receive pay for their work. Fifty percent of boys and 72 percent of girls who have jobs are working in rural areas, while companies employ most of the rest.

A group of young, dynamic and qualified economists working under the name the Economists’ Platform (www.ekonomistler.org.tr) released the results of a study on May 19, Youth and Sports Day. According to their report, youth are the group affected worst by the economic crisis, with unemployment among people ages 15 to 24 approaching 30 percent.

One of the most striking results of this study was that when young people were asked when they would be employed following their graduation, 57.8 percent said they believe they cannot get a job in less than a year.

These children and young people are Turkey’s most important asset. Considering that they will form the 25 to 45 age group in the 2030s shows how serious the situation is. It is impossible for the youth who will form the backbone of the country’s manpower in the 2030s to meet the level of qualification and education needed for development objectives.

Forget even about all that: Just imagine the social cost of this army of unemployed of today and tomorrow and their propensity for all sorts of quick fixes.
Yazının Devamını Oku

Declare May 29 Ottoman Day

30 Mayıs 2009
My last article on the May 29, the Day of Conquest celebrations, was in 2006. During the 556th year of Istanbul’s conquest, two permanent blows were made on the cosmopolitan mentality symbolized by Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror. So, it was a duty this year again to write something on this bizarre commemoration day. First, the Sulukule district has been erased although the neighborhood was legacy of Sultan Mehmed II, and Sulukule residents were forced to move out of Istanbul. People living in Sulukule are probably the only human constituent of the city who have existed since the days of conquest. The other drive is the Topkapı Culture Park Panorama 1453 History Museum, for which the has to thank the municipality.

In the opening speeches on Jan. 31 for the park, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş pointed out that the area was a dump while they talked about the rediscovery of our deep-rooted historic values. The association was no coincidence. The Istanbul municipality, run by a Justice and Development Party, or AKP, mayor, is determined to re-conquest the city and to re-create it. That contradicts entirely the cosmopolitan mentality of the Ottomans, whom the AKP tries to mimic.

Let us recall a few things first, as this is always useful: Ottomans were not celebrating the Conquest. The celebration of 1453 was invented during the Republic. It was uttered for the first time ever in 1938 in a way to lay the ground for the 500th anniversary of Constantinople’s Conquest. Discussions continued until the first celebration in 1953. It seems that some circles having a quest for a Turk-Islam synthesis perceived this as a first step to have the revenge of the Kemalist era between 1923-1938. Activities launched during Erdoğan’s mayorship of the city proved that such a mentality was becoming more solid. Indeed, the History Museum is a project that was considered while he was the mayor of Istanbul.

Turkey needs an Istanbul mythology to lean on. The AKP does it better than everyone else; this is the only difference. All activities including conquest ceremonies serve that purpose. The activities do not necessarily correspond to historical facts. On the contrary, a new history is in the making. Is there any other nation but us that sanctifies a city conquered six centuries ago? No, there is not because all others have become nations a long time ago and have no need for similar myths. They have a pretty good self-confidence and have no identity problems.

In this context, as the Ottomans themselves did not celebrate such a intense matter like Istanbul’s Conquest though it is a milestone in history, the obsession about the conquest of the pious or laic conservative circles in the Republic of Turkey is worrisome.

Saving the Conquest, Mehmed II and

Istanbul from nationalist rhetoric

Writing a national history via Istanbul and thus re-writing history is not only the AKP’s business. The Congress Valley, or the Prost Valley near Taksim, of the Republican period was planning a national cultural program of the time to the fore through an opera, a stadium, a theater and a park right at the poke of the Pera’s nose. With Topkapı Culture Park, national culture shifted from Prost Valley toward Topkapı, symbolizing the Muslim neighborhood of the Ottomans and the Conquest. After the Prost Valley parenthesis, we have seemed to come back to our cultural origins!

In fact, at Topkapı Park there is everything, as the mayor puts it: mosques, Ottoman houses, the history museum, a traditional arts bazaar, pools, a trekking area and an observation deck, in addition to the "Ottoman" parking lots. É But the mentality behind the Topkapı Park is no different than that of the Prost Valley. Both are re-writing history and the city’s history. The first is doing this through unfamiliar practices and the latter through domestic and familiar tales. However, none are real. The first is trying to form a national culture and history by rejecting the Ottoman past. Today’s local version is trying the same by assuming that the Ottomans consisted of only Muslims.

With the AKP municipality, May 29 becomes a key symbol in re-writing history. May 29 is nothing but a mythological representation based on tales and nationalist-Islamic rhetoric.

Why is May 29 not a day of activities to help us to better understand the Ottoman Empire, how it kept many religions and ethnicities under control? Why is May 29 not an "Ottoman Day"? Can’t we start its celebration on May 29, 2010, within the framework of activities to be held for Istanbul, the Europe Capital of Culture?
Yazının Devamını Oku

State diplomacy and civilian diplomacy

23 Mayıs 2009
Since the end of world wars, there are new ways of generating policies, both in internal and foreign politics. The trend was enhanced through the construction of the European Union and accelerated with the end of the Cold War and the onset of globalization. 19th century-style politics restraining the making of policy to national politicians has long since been transferred to experts and technicians. And now non-official actors need to be counted as new policy makers.

The EU’s founding father Jean Monnet in his Washington address on April 30, 1952, about the formation of a new union in Europe opens an extraordinary perspective when he utters "we are not setting up an alliance of states, we are bringing people together." Through the aphorism he signals that the new union will be people-oriented not state-oriented. Monnet reveals the beginning of a new era where societies will have a say next to selfish, belligerent states who disregard people.

Today, we have a variety of layers for carrying out domestic politics, through local and regional structures, and abroad by going beyond nation-states.

In this context, in addition to traditional diplomacy there is plenty of civilian multilateral, brisk and courageous diplomatic activity that is most of the time ahead of state diplomacy. Culture diplomacy, city diplomacy, environment diplomacy, transnational networks of non-governmental expert institutions, transnational expert institutions involved in conflict resolution are first come to mind.

International and intergovernmental organizations are trying to catch up with the pace of this new process of doing foreign diplomacy. The effects of these policies over state policies are directly related to the degree of institutionalization of democratic traditions in the countries.

Turkey is at the very beginning of this mutual interaction process. Participating in politics is still the exclusive sphere of the elected as well as the appointed (military) both in domestic and foreign matters. Outside the classical sphere of politics no initiative has any bearing or value. But designing policies and implementing them is no longer controlled exclusively by state as a result of the EU accession bid and widespread globalization.

EU not only about foreign politics

Thus, policymaking is somewhat fragmented. To say that the state and politicians are tuned into these novelties is difficult. On the contrary, state bureaucracy and politicians seem catching up to civilian initiatives. We are surprised every day by laws and regulations that were not shaped here, yet being implemented here as a result of EU harmonization works. (For this very reason, the EU is not only about foreign politics).

The making of these laws and regulations doesn’t depend on imperialist states as it is thought to do. The decisions are made as a result of multi-actor, multi-layer, continuous dialogue and negotiation processes. The very same external dynamics invite Turkey to pay attention to the policies produced by institutions and initiatives outside the governments and states. Turkey’s candidacy to the EU sped up the involvement of non-state and non-governmental actors. Civil society in Turkey has prepared remarkable initiatives on policies of memory, culture and environment, well beyond that of the state and government. Studies and awareness campaigns for the plight of non-Muslim as well as Muslim minorities, world-class cultural, art and literature actions to promote Turkey and protests that were held for the conservation of natureÉ

Those who expect every single step to come from the state or rely totally on the state for every single public policy in order to solve problems with neighboring countries and among citizens, will have been disappointed, at least for now, in the issue of re-opening the border with Armenia, among several other failed conflict resolution attempts by the state.

Among these state-loving circles there are groups who even term themselves "civil society organizations." Civilian initiatives continue despite all odds. Perhaps they are not enough to re-open borders but they do better: they open borders drawn in our minds.
Yazının Devamını Oku