Books on Turkey
Ahmet Necdet Sezer
Update No: 111 - (25/08/06)
Turkey is likely to send forces to Lebanon
The Turks are generally deeply concerned about current developments in the
Middle East, as are other nearby peoples. They are divided on whether the army
should intervene in Lebanon. The government is inclined to be in favour, while
the opposition disagrees.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stressed on August 14th that if
Turkish soldiers take part in the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, their duties
will be same as what he termed the 'Afghan model', which means helping local
citizens and bringing about reconstruction efforts in the region. How that
squares with the more robust rules of engagement required by other potential
force providers remains to be seen.
"Turkey will consider its possible contributions to finding a permanent
resolution to the problem in the light of developments. It is expected that a
new decision to be approved by the UN Security Council will shed more
light," said a press release from the Turkish Ministry on August 14th. A
decision to contribute troops to a peacekeeping force to Lebanon needs to be
approved by Parliament.
The possibility of Turkey sending military forces to help in a peace-keeping
mission in Lebanon has been discussed since the emergency Lebanese Conference
held in Rome in July. Since then various countries, including Israel, have
expressed the view that Turkish forces would be welcome to take a leading role
in a UN mission to the crisis area. Turkey is the only state in the region that
could be said to be friendly with Israel, and their armed forces are on good
CHP opposes sending troops right away
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) urged the government to stay
away from the quagmire in the Middle East. After being briefed by the Minister
of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Gul before he took off for a visit to Lebanon on
August 16th, CHP Leader Deniz Baykal said that it would be a mistake for Turkey
to send troops to Lebanon before the conditions of the mission are clarified and
the cease-fire in the region becomes constant.
Baykal added that sending forces in the current situation would lead to clashes
between the UN peace-keeping forces fighting with Hezbollah forces. He concluded
that Turkey should wait for a clear UN resolution.
Uncertainty over and from the EU
There are worries and uncertainties of another sort affecting Turkey right
now. With the European Union (EU) continuing to be unsure about whether to admit
Turkey, there are signs that conservatism is growing across the nation, both
politically and culturally.
The prolonged road to membership and the many economic, legal and cultural
adjustments made to pave the way, have soured some attitudes toward the European
Union, according to a large recent survey of Turks. The poll, conducted by Ali
Carkoglu and Ersin Kalaycioglu from Sabanci and Isik universities in Istanbul,
shows a decline in support for membership, from a high point of 74 per cent in
2003 to 58 per cent this year.
Face-to-face interviews with 1,846 adults in 23 cities throughout Turkey,
conducted in March and April, found a strong religious influence. More than 60
per cent of those responding said they would refuse to let their daughters marry
non-Muslims. Also, 60 per cent blamed a lack of religious beliefs for overall
"failure in life." And 46 per cent favoured schools that specialized
in religious teachings for their children over schools with secular curriculums.
Trend towards conservatism all round
In politics, the Justice and Development Party, an Islamicist affair born in
the ashes of fringe religious-based parties, rode a conservative wave and formed
the first majority government in almost 20 years, in 2002.
Since then, there has been an increase in public displays of conservatism around
the country, notably in the number of women wearing head scarves in the streets.
But head scarves are still banned by the Constitution and religious
conservatives hoped that the European Union would ask Turkey to permit the
practice in the name of religious freedom. In the survey, 68 per cent said they
considered the ban to be religious oppression and supported its repeal.
Islamic businesses are benefiting from the changing attitudes. Mustafa Karaduman,
the owner of Turkey's leading women's Islamic clothing store, uses the brand
name Tekbir, which means "the one and only" in Turkish, a reference to
God. He now has 22 stores with 78 more planned in three years. "Even if we
opened stores in every city in Turkey, we would not be able to respond to the
growing demand," he said. "All monotheistic religions order women to
cover up, and my dream is to see all women in the world covered by our
Karaduman says he feels uncomfortable watching models in makeup wearing his
clothing on Tekbir's catwalks, but he allows the practice and even sells bathing
suits designed for covered women as a nod toward modernity.
He said he was not a strong supporter of Turkish membership in the European
Union and preferred trade links with less-developed but culturally closer
"If we would only remove the customs tax at borders, the unlimited business
with our neighbours in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Middle East would make
us earn much more than the promised profits of EU membership," he said.
Ankara urges the EU to restraint
Political leaders emphasize the importance of the EU's treating Turkey
delicately. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul says Turkey can be a bridge between
"Islam is one of the oldest religions in Europe and had major contributions
to the European culture," he said. "The fact that Turkey is a Muslim
country and has created a European-style democracy should be seen as a major
contribution to world and European peace."
Ali Babacan, the minister of economy and Turkey's chief negotiator in the
membership talks, says the Islamic world is watching how Turkey is treated.
"After the September 11th attacks, change in the region is
inevitable," he said. "All leaders in the EU have to realize this
importance of the Turkish process and the negative consequences of what could
happen if the process is derailed or stops."
Emre Kongar, an academic and columnist for the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet,
accuses the government of not truly caring about the European Union.
"Unfortunately, the present government is using its political power to
transfer the capital from secular to religious circles," Kongar said.
"It's a real threat to the secular democratic regime."
Others say Turks have to balance their secular ideals and the growing
conservatism. "When you look at the streets you see more and more women
wearing head scarves, and more visual symbols of an Islamic way of life, so you
start thinking that the country is shifting toward a more Islam than secular way
of life," Pekin Baran, the vice president of the Turkish Industrialists'
and Businessmen's Association, said.
"But we have to be careful not to jump into easy conclusions and have to
respect and find a balance between the religious values versus secular
values," he said. "The miracle of this country is that you are in
principle free to choose your way of life, and this is not easy."
The widening energy debate
Turkey is a hub between East and West in more ways than one. It is a country
that has little in the way of its own natural resources and has to import
three-quarters of its energy needs. It is an unusual place to be at the centre
of a global energy debate.
Yet Turkey is a key nation in the increasingly politicised sector because it
stands close to the biggest oil and gas deposits in the world with Russia, the
Caspian and the Gulf region to the east and south all on its doorstep.
And to the west lie the huge energy consumer markets of continental Europe,
which explains why Turkey is now a tangle of pipelines, many of which converge
on Ceyhan, the Mediterranean Sea port. BP has just started taking the first
deliveries from its 1,000-mile Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil link from Azerbaijan
through Georgia to Turkey, which was encouraged by Washington because it
Lawrence Eagles, head of oil analysis at the International Energy Agency in
Paris says: "Turkey is increasingly becoming a strategic centre for oil
trades and an important conduit for crude and products from the Middle East and
former Soviet Union."
Turkey is already the home to a variety of Russian pipelines, including the
866-mile Blue Stream pipeline which runs under the Black Sea from Izzobilnoye in
southern Russia to Ankara. Relations with Moscow have often been turbulent and
were not helped by Turkey finding itself a victim of the cuts in gas when Russia
cut supplies to Ukraine earlier this year. This has heated up the debate in
Turkey - as it did in Britain, the US and many other consuming countries - about
the importance and need for greater internal energy security. And many of the
debates that are currently going on in them over whether to invest in nuclear,
what role could there be for more renewables, also rage in Turkey.
The issue has become increasingly pronounced over the last couple of years
because energy consumption and net imports have rapidly grown since the country
recovered from economic meltdown in 2001. Soaring global oil and gas prices have
meant that Turkey's fossil-fuel imports now mop up over 6% of the country's
economic output, or gross domestic product. Over 72% of its energy demand is met
from abroad and this figure is expected to rise to 82% by 2020 if nothing is
The International Energy Agency has warned Turkey that it needs to
"restructure the state-owned enterprises. . . create independent
electricity and gas operators and to remove cross-subsidies from electricity and
gas prices." As part of its attempts to win entry into the EU, Turkey has
also introduced many European energy laws as well as ratifying the Kyoto
protocol aimed at cutting carbon emissions and therefore reducing climate
change. The country has been pressing ahead with wind farms, it has been trying
to increase the number of hydro-electric plants, and the World Bank gave it
loans of over US$200m in 2004 to kickstart more "green" power
But after much debate, the Ankara government has also decided that it must
proceed with a nuclear power programme and is talking about the possibility of
constructing four atomic reactors. These would have a capacity of 5,000
megawatts, enough to generate 5% of the projected energy demand by 2015.
But it is not the first time the country has taken the political decision to
proceed with nuclear only to back off in the face of public opposition to the
environmental, terrorism, and basic safety implications.
The Turkish people are split down the middle between those in favour and those
against. Eight formal applications have already been received from the private
sector but nearly all want the state to be involved as partners. Turkish
companies have led the way but they accept that foreign expertise will be vital
to the success of any such project which is likely to be centred on a location
such as Mersin Akkuyu. As in western Europe, the debate about energy-supply
security has got louder since the turn of the year when the stand-off between
Russia and Ukraine led to a reduction in gas to Turkey.
Over 80% of the natural gas used in local power stations and for domestic
heating comes from Russia and Iran. It is distributed in Istanbul, home to 12
million people and the country's biggest city, by local firm Istanbul Gas
Distribution company (Igdas). As part of the government's privatisation drive,
Igdas is expected to move forward with an initial public offering on the stock
market before the end of this year.
Igdas director general Levent Tufekci is confident he can double his customer
base to 6m within 10 years and is working hard to upgrade its own pipeline
network. As to the wider political importance of all these transport links he
says: "The pipeline projects linking the Caucasus and central Asia to
Europe will be essential for the region's integration to the west. "Secure
and commercially profitable pipelines will help bring stability and prosperity
to the region."
Privatisation has already started in the petroleum sector with the Turkish
Petroleum Refineries Corporation (Tupras) recently being bought by a consortium
of locally owned Koc Holding and Royal Dutch Shell. They beat off competition
from Turkish fuel retailer, Petrol Ofisi, which itself was privatised back at
the turn of the century but has just moved into a new era with the sale of a 34%
stake for US$1bn to OMV of Austria.
Turkey is itself an oil producer thanks to the Turkish State Petroleum Company
and has been helped by foreign firms Shell and ExxonMobil. But the oil fields
-mainly centred in the Hakkari Basin - are old and expensive to exploit. The
output was down to 43,000 barrels a day, a small part of the 700,000 barrel
daily needs and barely a few minutes production compared to nearby countries
such as Saudi Arabia.
Jolanka Fisher, Turkey specialist at the IEA, says the member country is going
through rapid change with new pipelines such as BTC coming on stream and the
local markets being liberalised. She adds: "This is all important for
security of supply in Turkey but given its position as an energy corridor it is
also vital for wider Europe."
Investment in 30 new F-16 fighters
Turkey is planning to buy a new squadron of F-16 fighter jets worth at least
US$1.5 billion as a stop-gap solution until new-generation fighter aircrafts
join its Air Force in the next decade, Italian news agency ANSA cited
procurement and military officials as saying.
The move is likely to torpedo an earlier plan with Israel for the upgrade of 48
Vietnam-era F-4E fighters. Officials said a final agreement might emerge before
the end of this year if all technical and financial talks with Lockheed Martin,
the aircraft's manufacturer, go smoothly. For the US$10 billion programme to buy
nearly 100 new-generation fighters, Turkey's largest defence procurement project
in history, Turkish officials are presently holding simultaneous talks with
Lockheed Martin, lead-manufacturer of the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as
the F-35 Lightning II, and Europe's Eurofighter consortium, maker of the
Russia's Lukoil Eyes Zonguldak for US$3 Billion Oil Refinery
After taking a giant leap in oil transportation with the Samsun-Ceyhan
pipeline, Turkey has become the focus of interest for major oil refining
companies. The decision by Turkey's Calik Energy to undertake a US$4.9 billion
investment in a Ceyhan refinery with a yearly capacity of 15 million tons
together with its Indian partner, Indian Oil, prompted Russian giant Lukoil to
take action, Trend reported.
After applying to the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) for a licence in
July, Lukoil chairman, Vagit Alekperov, met the agency's head Yusuf Gunay.
The Russian company wants to establish a refinery with a capacity of 8-10
million tons in Zonguldak, a Turkish province along the western Black Sea coast
region, but Alekperov declared the realization of this US$3-billion investment
depends on the appropriation of land and tax discounts.
The project is expected to take five years to complete, and its future will be
determined following detailed talks with the government.
At a joint press conference with Alekperov, EPDK head Yusuf Gunay said that in
the past month alone they have handled applications for future investments
totalling more than US$9 billion, Lukoil included.
Turkey currently has a refinery deficit of nearly 20 per cent and imported
approximately six million tons of oil last year to meet the country's demand for
oil, Gunay said, "It's estimated the deficit for oil products will exceed
15 million tons in line with the increasing demand for diesel oil over the next
decade. This deficit can be recouped through either imports or by an increase in
Turkey's refinery capacity."
Alekperov stated talks for possible financial partnerships will be held after
technical and economic calculations for the project are complete; discussions
which have yet to start. He added they chose Zonguldak for its proximity to
Turkey's major cities, namely Istanbul and Ankara.
After informing press members that they also plan to start operations in the
distribution sector, the Lukoil chairman said, "Oil stations with the
Lukoil logo will be opened by September. We've started to transport supplies
from our refineries in Bulgaria and Romania."
Alekperov added "Lukoil will increase competition (in Turkey's oil market)
as a company that operates at all stages, from the well to the oil pump at the
station. Tough competition will bring fairer prices."
Lukoil's chairman asked Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, for his support for the
project when he visited him together with Energy Minister, Hilmi Guler.
Eximbank pays US$3.8bn to support exports
Turkish state-run export financing bank Turk Eximbank has extended a total
of US$3.8bn (2.974 billion Euro) to support exports for the first six months of
2006, Turkish State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen said at his meeting with the
delegation of the international union of credit and investment insurers
recently, news Agency reporter.gr said.
A total of US$2bn (1.565bn Euro) were extended for insurances and US$1.8bn
(1.409bn Euro) in export credits. Eximbank registered a transaction of some
US$32bn (25.051 billion Euro) in Turkey for 2005. The bank secured a US$300
million (234.8 million Euro) export credit in March 2006, Kursad Tuzmen added.
July export target of US$79bn achieved
Turkish State Minister Kursad Tuzmen announced that the 2006 export target of
US$79 billion was achieved in July, reporter.gr said.
Turkey's exports to 10 countries in the first six months exceeded US$ one
billion, Tuzmen said, adding that the export figure will be US$82-84 billion at
the end of 2007. The highest export increase rate was with Gibraltar, Singapore