Books on Turkey
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Update No: 108 - (30/05/06)
The enigma that is Turkey
The Turks are odd men out in the Middle East.
The very concept of 'the Middle East' is an odd one. The Far East we all know
about. But where is the Near East, if not precisely what we tend to call 'the
The answer is Turkey. Turkey is eastern by reason of its religion and history.
But since Ataturk, one of the political titans of the twentieth century, it
aspires to be Western. Thanks to his reforms, some 75% of Turks, in a late
opinion poll regard themselves as Western.
It has been a secular state since Ataurk, a status fiercely guarded by its
military. Its present government is Islamicist - but notably moderate in so
The impossible dream?
The Turks dream of being acceptable to Europe. The truth is that they despise
the Arabs they once ruled over (which dominion they only lost by defeat in the
First World War to the West), and would like nothing better than to be accepted
It is true that they once ruled over millions of Europeans, notably in the
Balkans. But it was the Greeks and others that threw them out. Hence their great
respect for them. Hence why they want to join them.
It is a good idea. But unfortunately an impossible one - for now.
It is still in lots of peoples' interests to play with it.
Here are the dreamers
A recently published Eurobarometer poll that focuses on the future of Europe
shows that people in European Union countries do not have a problem with
Turkey's membership. Some 30 per cent of them said that enlargement means hope.
For 8 per cent of them enlargement means satisfaction and for 4 per cent of them
enlargement means excitement. Those who are against enlargement make up 36 per
cent of respondents. For the EU population, a European social welfare system
could strengthen the EU citizenship of the population. To this could be added a
European constitution and, moreover, being able to vote in all elections
organized in the member state where they live.
For EU citizens, in the fight against terrorism, the promotion of democracy and
peace in the world, the fight against organized crime, food safety and ensuring
continuous energy supplies, there should be more decisions made at the European
level rather than a national level.
For EU citizens, a common army or a well-defined external border are not the
most helpful things for the future of Europe. For them the most useful thing is
a consistent living standard among member states as well as the introduction of
the euro in all member countries.
This survey shows many things
EU citizens are not against further enlargement. This should be underlined
particularly in some countries where governments are against Turkey's
membership. These governments are putting forward the idea that their public
does not want to see any more states join the EU.
The second issue is that democracy and human rights are what EU citizens care
most about. When Ankara is able to join the EU it will mean that Turkey fully
respects the EU's democratic criteria.
The third issue is that EU citizens want to see consistent living standards
among member states. If the economic effect of starting accession negotiations
with Turkey last October 3rd is analysed, Turkey's membership and its economic
impact can be forecast. And the impact for Turkey will be very important. In
other words, when Turkey joins the EU, it won't be today's Turkey. It will be an
economically prosperous Turkey.
Therefore, the latest Eurobarometer demonstrates that the declarations of
underhanded EU politicians against Turkey's membership do not reflect European
public opinion. It shows also that Turkey has a very long way to go and that the
pace of reforms should not slow down. To the contrary, no matter what the
political benefit, Ankara should give emphasis to political and economic reform
and even the staunchest European political opponent to Turkey's membership would
have to change their mind.
Even the brightest politician can hold a false opinion about enlargement or EU
policy. In 1977, late French President Francois Mitterand, then opposition
leader, told a French magazine: "One has to be careful not to turn the
common market into a mere free trade zone. Neither Greece nor Spain is in a
position to join the (European) Community. Accession is neither in their
interest nor is it in our interest. Interim steps are desirable."
Four years later, Mitterand was elected president of France. By the time he left
the presidency in 1995, Greece, Spain and Portugal had been EU members for more
than a decade, negotiations were completed with Austria, Finland and Sweden, and
the first steps had been taken towards the admission of post-communist Central
and Eastern Europe.
The Turks know of one other 'Middle Eastern' people who are oddmen out - the
Israelis. They are the only pro-Israeli country in the region. Both are of
course intensely pro-Western.
FICC, Turkey sign economic cooperation pact
The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce has signed an economic
cooperation agreement with the Turkish Chambers of the Aegean Region to forge
bi-lateral trade relations between the two chambers. "Trade relations
between Turkey and Israel have accelerated over the past few years," said
Uriel Lynn, President of the FICC. "Between 2002 and 2005 trade relations
between Israel and Turkey increased by 79 per cent to US$2.1 billion in
Exports to Turkey grew by 13% to US$919 million, while imports saw a rise of 22%
to US$1.2b. Lynn added that there are currently about 152 Israeli companies
investing tens of millions of dollars in Turkey.
The agreement was signed during the visit of Nedim Kalpaklioglu, deputy chairman
of Aegean Region Chamber of Industry (EBSO) Executive Board to Israel, who
headed the delegation of 20 Turkish companies at the "Agritech 2006"
conference, which opened its gates in Tel Aviv recently.
The trade agreement was established to seek out ways in which economic
cooperation and trade can promote regional economic integration between Israel
and the Aegean region.
The EBSO counts almost 6,048 companies in 51 different sectors. The region
includes the city of Izmr, the third largest city of commerce in Turkey and a
central port city, which provides 70.3% of all agricultural production and 10%
of all employment.
The Port of Izmr has a capacity of 12.5m tons, where 55% of all transportation
in imports and exports takes place. The major sectors in the Aegean region are
agriculture, industry, mining and tourism. Global companies investing in the
region include Philip Morris, General Motors, Coca Cola, Samsung and Tetrapak.
Turkey has been an integral part of a thriving Mediterranean economy, a crucial
land bridge between Europe and Asia, a trade crossroads, and an essential warm
water maritime link for Ukraine and Russia.
Among the areas in which Israel and Turkey have enhanced their cooperation in
recent years are water and energy.
The US fishing in muddy waters
In another complex geopolitical imbroglio, US Secretary of State Rice has made
great efforts recently to convince Greek and Turkish politicians to reject a
Gazprom proposal to participate in a new gas pipeline under construction between
the two Mediterranean neighbours.
The US$746 million pipeline project is a joint venture between the Greek and
Turkish state-owned gas companies, Depa and Botas. During a recent visit to
Athens, Alexei Miller, Gazprom CEO, offered to invest in tripling the capacity
of the Greek-Turkish pipeline and to provide long-term supply agreements. At the
same time, energy-rich Azerbaijan has also stated its interest in participating
in the project. Neither Athens nor Ankara has made a decision about whether to
accept the Russian or Azerbaijani bid.
During her April 25 stopovers in Greece and Turkey, Rice made it clear that
Washington wants to see both countries reduce their reliance on Russian gas
supplies. This, naturally, means excluding Gazprom from the new project, whether
as a shareholder in the pipeline company or as a gas supplier. Instead,
Washington suggests, Greece and Turkey should make a long-term deal to buy Azeri
gas supplied by an international consortium led by BP and Norway's Statoil,
which is due to come on line in 2007.
It is quite symptomatic that America's top diplomat raised the issue of European
energy security at a time when the White House was preparing to host
Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev. According to US administration officials,
the Azerbaijani leader, whose democratic credentials are shaky at best, was
finally invited to Washington in order to prevent the South Caucasus country
"from coming under Russia's sway and eliminating … the last chance to
give European countries an alternative route for energy."
Ankara recalls its ambassador to Canada
Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Canada, Aydemir Erman, for consultations
to protest Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent remarks describing
the forced deportation of Armenians in 1915 Ottoman Turkey as
Harper, in a three-paragraph statement on April 19, recalled motions adopted by
the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons backing the Armenian genocide
claims and said, "My party and I supported those resolutions, and continue
to recognize them today." It was the first time a Canadian prime minister
acknowledged the so-called genocide.
Turkish diplomatic sources said over the weekend that Ambassador Erman has not
yet been officially withdrawn from Canada, but that following his consultations
with government officials, it could be an option. Another option includes
barring Canadian firms from participating in official tenders, including the
construction of a major nuclear power plant. Turkish sources expressed
particular uneasiness about the acknowledgement of genocide claims coming from
the Canadian government for the first time.
In the past five years, the parliaments of France, Russia and Poland have also
adopted motions describing the occurrences in 1915 as "genocide," but
the governments of these countries have tried to disassociate themselves from
the motions and have noted that they won't change their foreign policy.
On April 25, Turkey's Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing Harper of
exhibiting a "gravely prejudiced attitude."
"Such statements ... are not only counter-productive to the atmosphere of
dialogue we wish to build between Turkey and Armenia, but also adversely affect
relations between Turkey and Canada," the Foreign Ministry said.
Turks and Armenians are at odds over the genocide claims. The Armenian diaspora
accuses the Ottoman Empire of deliberately massacring up to 1.5 million
Armenians between 1915 and 1919. Turkey stresses that these figures are
inflated, and claims that far fewer Armenians died, but that it was due to civil
unrest under the conditions of World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman
Empire. Turkey also asserts that during the ethnic conflict, thousands of Turks
were also killed by Armenian militants.
To break the deadlock, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year
suggested in a letter sent to Armenian President Robert Kocharian the
establishment of a committee of Turkish and Armenian historians to study the
claims. However, Kocharian refused Erdogan's proposal, saying that the two
countries must first establish diplomatic relations and that committees could be
formed only within the process of normalization of relations.
FOOD & DRINK
THY catering bid starts
Given the number of passengers and destinations high among the leading companies
in Europe, competition in the Turkish Air Lines (THY) tender was expected to be
intense. After a 10-day postponement, major companies had the chance to compete
for the catering bid on April 28th, New Europe reported.
Four companies competing for the tender, worth US$70m annually and renewed every
five years, are: Gate Gourmet USAS, LSG Sky Chef Sancak Catering, TAV-Do&Co
and Sofra Group. USAS currently provides the catering services to THY. Gate
Gourmet USAS is expected to win the tender for two main reasons: It has been
providing the catering services to THY for the past 15 years and has a 70 per
cent market share.
The authorisation to provide catering services for THY will be a major triumph
for the company with the largest share of the market. Nine facilities belonging
to Gate Gourmet USAS and with others owned by LSG Sky Chef Sancak Catering are
currently in service. LSG Sky Chefs Sancak Catering has a 30 per cent market
share had has been providing catering services for private air lines.
Mustafa Bayrak, the owner of Sancak Catering, the Turkish partner of LSG Sky
Chef Sancak Catering, also owns Sancak Tul and Sancak Air. With more than 200
facilities in 48 countries, LSG Sky Chefs provides catering services to 270
airline companies. TAV Investment Holding, the managing operators of Istanbul's
Ataturk Airport, emerged as a surprise name when it announced its participation
in the tender.
World Bank grants 27.3m Euro loan
The World Bank approved a 27.3 million Euro Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic
Preparedness and Response Project Loan (AIHP) for Turkey, New Europe reported.
The overall objective of the Project is to minimise the threat in Turkey posed
to humans by highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) infection in domestic
poultry, and to prepare for the control and response to an influenza pandemic
and other infectious disease emergencies in humans. The influenza has scared
tourists away from visiting Turkey and badly hurt the country's poultry
industry. Turkey has reportedly culled 2.27 million poultry across the country
in an effort to halt the spread of the disease.
Palmali buys Russian LUKoil's oil tankers for US$265m
Turkey's Palmali Shipping has closed a deal to buy 10 Artic oil tankers from
Russian oil major LUKoil for US$265m, Vedomosti reported recently.
The tankers with dead weights of 20,000 tonnes, will transport oil and oil
products among the ports of the North, Baltic, Barents, Norwegian and White
Some of the tankers will be Russian-registered. Palmali Shipping will be in
charge of commercial management of the tankers.
The technical maintenance of the ships will be carried out jointly with Russian
state-owned shipping company, Sovkomflot.
Owners of Turkcell battle to secure balance of power
Following the postponement of a recent annual shareholder meeting, the battle
for control of Turkcell among its three main owners has entered a new and
possibly decisive phase, the Financial Times reported recently.
The three shareholders in Turkey's number one mobile phone group - Cukurova
Holding - a struggling Turkish conglomerate, TeliaSonera, the Nordic telecoms
group, and Alfa Holding, a Russian telecoms operator - appear unable to agree on
the appointment of the seven-member board's one independent director, who would
prove decisive in tipping the balance of power in favour o f the three owners.
The issue was to have been thrashed at the annual meeting recently but was
postponed at the last minute after a court intervened in the dispute. The
meeting will now be held in the near future, people close to Turkcell have said.
Whether the shareholders can set aside their differences in the atmosphere of
claim, counterclaim and legal action that has resulted remains to be seen.
Cukurova Holding owns 53 per cent of a holding company that owns 51 per cent of
Turkcell. TeliaSonera owns 43 per cent of the holding company. Separately, Alfa
owns 13 per cent of Turkcell through an alliance with Cukurova. TeliaSonera has
taken legal action against both Cukurova and Alfa over this alliance, agreed
last year, claiming that it breached an existing agreement that gave TeliaSonera
first call on Cukurova's Turkcell stake.
In recent weeks, Cukurova has sought to reassert its waning position at Turkcell,
engineering the departure of several senior executives, apparently against the
wishes of TeliaSonera, Alfa and Muzaffer Akpinar, Turkcell's highly-regarded
Turkcell's market share and financial position have remained strong throughout
the dispute, which has been ongoing for more than a year. The latest twist,
however, has added a new element of uncertainty and forced investors - about 17
per cent of Turkcell is listed on the Istanbul and New York stock markets - to
consider the problems more seriously.
"The composition of the board will be very important and we do not know yet
what that will be," says Nergis Kasabali, telecoms analyst at Ata Invest, a
Turkish investment bank.
At the heart of the case is a need for one of the three main shareholders, or
two in concert, to gain 51 per cent of the company, which would effectively give
the owner complete control.
Cukurova, Alfa and TeliaSonera own at least two thirds of Turkcell jointly but
none is dominant. Cukurova, which is heavily in debt to the state, is fighting a
rearguard action to protect its last remaining significant asset. TeliaSonera
and Alfa both view Turkey as a key growth market, with Turkcell as the prize.