Troglodytes in Turkey?

Well it seems that Spain’s troglodytes aren’t the only ones hovering around the EU arena. Turkey’s Land Forces Commander Gen. Yasar Buyukanit might be another case it seems:

As we feared in our editorial on Monday the accusations from the prosecutor that the Land Forces commander tried to influence the judicial process by making statements on behalf of a defendant have been blown out of proportion that could well turn into a full-blown domestic crisis….

The background to this situation is explained here:

The reasons for the tension between the government and the military, which are now rising over Gen. Buyukanit, are briefly as follows:

Erdogan’s presidential bid: Some circles claim that the AK Party leader wants to become president through majority support in Parliament in 2007. But people close to the AK Party indicate that Gen. Buyukanit, who is set to become chief of General Staff this August, is the biggest obstacle to Erdogan’s presidential aspirations. That’s the reason for rumors about Gen. Buyukanit sparked before he became Land Forces Commander and that some circles argued that the AK Party didn’t want to see Buyukanit helm the land forces

Uneasy AK Party members: The AK Party deputies see the presence of Buyukanit — who often inveighs against fundamentalist movements, uses Kemalist undertones in his statements, makes statements contradicting the AK Party’s policies on many issues ranging from Cyprus to northern Iraq, and terrorism to religious vocational Imam Hatip high schools — as a direct threat to their rule. Some AK Party deputies don’t want Buyukanit to assume the post to show the AK Party’s power to everyone. It’s striking that some AK Party deputies say, “He did what we couldn’t do,” referring to the prosecutor that prepared the indictment.

Now from the standpoint of my sparse knowledge of Turkish politics it is hard to tell just what sort of a ‘troglodyte’ General Buyukanit actually is, or indeed whether or not he is a troglodyte at all. One thing however is clear: the balance between military and political institutions in Turkey is far from ‘normalised’ and a right royal battle seems to be going on.

On another front, this article by Ayhan Simsek draws attention to the extent to which developments in Iraq may cast a long and important shadow over Turkey’s EU accession aspirations.

Sustaining Growth in Turkey

I don’t suppose it’s much of a secret that Turkey is one of the main ‘growth tigers’ in the ambit of the EU. The big issue is, I suppose, just how sustainable Turkey’s growth is. Well the World Bank is on the story, and now has a Country Economic Memorandum entitled Promoting Sustained Growth and Convergence with the European Union. As the FT notes:

Turkey needs to create more jobs, get more women into the workforce, and send its children to school for longer if it is to improve its chances of joining the European Union, the World Bank said on Monday.

I absolutely agree, and address the significant inequality between Western Turkey and the Kurdish east, may I add. But I do find myself having the thought, if Turkey does all the things which she is being encouraged to do. If Turkey becomes one of the largest and most dynamic economies in the neighbourhood of the EU, will this really increase the membership chances, or will this only make the resistance in some quarters even stronger?

Parents of Kurdish political refugee murdered in Turkey

There is some friction between Belgium and Turkey.

First there was the case of Fehriye Erdal, a far-left militant that was convicted last Thursday in Belgium for being a member of a criminal organisation (Turkish group DHKP-C or Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front). Trouble is, when Belgian authorities proceeded to arrest her she had disappeared. A big fuss ensued with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül demanding an investigation and the extradition of Erdal to Turkey.

Today another story has emerged in the Belgian press. The unlinkable VRT Teletekst reports on pages 157 and 158 that Flemish Minister of Foreign Policy Geert Bourgeois has written the Turkish ambassador to Belgium a letter asking an explanation for the murder of the parents of Derwich M. Ferho, the president of the Kurdish Institute in Brussels. Ferho’s parents were kidnapped last Thursday in Turkey and killed in what some people, notably the Kurdish Institute, suspect to be an assault by Turkish death squads and local security services. It seems that Ferho’s parents had previously been threatened by Turkish authorities because their two sons, both political refugees living in Belgium, had engaged in, and I quote from the unlinkable news item on VRT Teletekst, “anti-Turkish activities abroad”.

Geert Bourgeois has asked for an explanation and warned that there could be a problem if Derwich’s parents were indeed murdered by Turkish authorities, especially in view of Turkish negotiations to enter the EU. When Bourgeois himself was asked if there could be a link with the missing Erdal, he responded: “It would be too early to say, but I would not rule out that possibility”.

Since nothing seems to be confirmed yet… to be continued

Something Seems To Be Working

According to the Turkish news agency Hürriet Turkish Deputy prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul spoke last night to the NTV news channel regarding:

“the recent wave of legal battles being held against Turkish intellectuals and a senior member of the European Parliament. Gul criticized the actions that were being taken under the controversial article of the country’s new penal code and said, “There seems to be a chain of systematic complaints. There appears to be a mentality deliberately aiming to create chaos.”

The FT quotes Mr Gul as saying:

“There may need to be a new law. As a government we’re watching closely how the existing laws are being implemented.”

The law in question is the one which makes it an offence to insult “Turkishness”. This law has been highlighted recently by the Orhan Pamuk case and now by the strange threat to prosecute Joost Lagendijk, a Dutch member of the European parliament, for suggesting the Turkish army provoked Kurdish rebels in the hope of extending its influence. Interestingly enough Joost Lagendijk supports Turkish membership of the EU. State prosecutors are reportedly studying the complaint against Lagendjik.

Now I have to say that not of this surprises me. Turkey is a society in transition. Fortunately the transition is from a bad equilibrium to a batter one, and we in the EU are doing our bit. I feel that Gul’s statement confounds the fears of the sceptics. In this case EU pressure will be rigourous, and change will be far reaching, but the process will, obviously, have its ups and downs.

So I was really surprised to read in the FT:

“Turkey knows that gaining entry to the EU will become an increasingly arduous task in the coming years, because of widespread antipathy inside the 25-member club towards future enlargement. “

No! Turkey gaining entry to the EU will be an arduous task because it is good for Turkey and good for the EU that it be so. If some people are using their ‘enlargement fatigue’ as an excuse for trying to make things more difficult, then they are the ones who will end up even more fatigued (and frustrated) as time after time Turkey complies with their demands.

This could be another example of shooting-yourself-in the-footism as in complying with the demands Turkey will become an increasingly modern and economically competitive society, which means, of course, that when it does join in 2014 it will, as the largest member state, have even more influence :).

Riding The Euromed

I used to think that Euromed was simply the name of a train which rides the Barcelona-Valencia run. I was wrong. It is also the name colloquially being given to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (aka the Barcelona Process) which was infact launched in Barcelona in 1995. As the blurb tells us, the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership comprises 35 members: 25 EU Member States and 10 Mediterranean Partners (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey). In addition Libya has observer status since 1999.

Well, the parties are back in Barcelona this weekend, and of course the meet has been getting a fair amount of press coverage.
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Kurdish TV in Denmark

One of the many reasons I continue to support the Turkish EU accession process is because I think it will be good for human rights and democracy in Turkey, and good for the Kurds. This latest spat between Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Danish hosts, is simply another good example of this at work. The pressure is constantly on Turkey.

Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan boycotted a joint press conference with the Danish leader in protest at the presence of a Kurdish TV station on Tuesday (15 November), highlighting European values on free speech.

“There is a fundamental difference between Turkey and Denmark in matters of freedom of expression,” the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at the press conference his Turkish counterpart avoided.

The Turkish prime minister was visiting the Danish capital Copenhagen as the first stop in a tour around EU capitals to discuss the prospects of Turkey’s EU membership. Mr Erdogan stayed away from the press conference in protest at the presence of a journalist from the Danish-based TV channel Roj TV.

Turkey has repeatedly urged Denmark to close the channel, which sends news, entertainment, debate and children’s’ programs to Kurds in Denmark, arguing it is financed by the Kurdish rebel party, the PKK, which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations. Danish police are investigating the station, but have not found evidence of links to forbidden organisations so far.

Source: EU Observer

Turks snubbing arranged marriage with EU?

The excellent Dutch weblog Sargasso has an entry on Turkish cult novelist Burak Turna, whose latest book The Third World War or Üçüncü Dünya Savasi is turning into a regular best-seller in Turkey. One quote from Turna, taken from the International Herald Tribune:

”Turks are waking up to two facts,” Turna said at a café near Istanbul’s bustling Taksim Square, where he was greeted like a rock star by young fans. “One is that everything told to the Turkish people by EU leaders is lies. Two, that a Muslim country will never get into an EU that doesn’t want us”.

Fair enough. However, in his novel The Third World War Turna acts out Turkish feelings of anti-EU resentment in the following way:

The year is 2010 and the European Union has rejected Turkey. Fascist governments have come to power in Germany, Austria and France and are inciting violence against resident Turks and Muslims. A vengeful Turkey joins forces with Russia and declares war against the EU. Turkish commandos besiege Berlin, obliterate Europe and take control of the Continent.

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Two for the price of – what?

Hi folks,

It’s Brussels Gonzo, back again – this time as a full member of the team (thank you, David and colleagues). And since my first entry as a guest blogger dealt with Croatia’s membership application, and a later one described the unedifying scenes in the European parliament after their talks failed to start in March, it seems appropriate that my first entry as a regular FoE-er should talk about the linkage between yesterday’s two crucial decisions to start membership talks with Croatia and Turkey. (I hope this doesn’t too much repeat Tobias on the same subject yesterday.)
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Another Slice of Turkey

Actually, it’s more like a slab. But from the New York Times. It’s tasty and full of all sorts of facts and anecdotes that are probably very good for you.

The E.U.’s rationale for welcoming Turkey into its councils and its economic sphere used to be a matter of “strategic rent,” compensation for its position at a crossroads of continents and military blocs. Today, says Soli Ozel, a political scientist at Bilgi University, what Europe sees in Turkey is “an example that a modern, secular democratic state and capitalist society is compatible with a Muslim population.” Europe has come to value Turkey not just for where it is but for what it is.

And of course the occasional provocative opinion.

Turkey Under More Scrutiny

The EU’s tug of war with Turkey over human rights continues. This weekend attention has been focused on an academic conference held at Istanbul Bilgi University to discuss issues arising from and surrounding the massacre of Armenians which took place following the collapse of the Ottoman empire.

The most surprising thing in fact may have been that the conference was held at all. As the Chronicle of Higher Education Reports:
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