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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Turkey


Update No: 127 - (19/12/07)

Headscarfs count
Turkey's ruling AK Party, which has Islamicist roots, signaled on December 7 that it plans to ease a ban on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in universities under a new draft constitution. "This (new) constitution will solve the headscarf problem in a more libertarian spirit," Dengir Firat, a deputy chairman of the AK Party, told CNN Turk television.

The constitution was duly published on December 15. The AK party has hinted many times that it wants to modify or if possible remove the headscarf ban, which also applies to government offices.

Unless ‘a deal has been done’ with the military, any moves to scrap the ban is sure to revive tensions between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's centre-right AK Party government and Turkey's secular elite, which includes powerful army generals, top judges and university rectors.
The secularists view the headscarf as a symbol of political Islam and, therefore, as a direct challenge to Turkey's separation of religion and state. They also distrust the AK Party because of its Islamicist past and the fact the wives of Erdogan and other senior ministers wear the headscarf. The secularists tried earlier last year to block the election by parliament of the AK Party's Abdullah Gul as Turkey's president. Gul finally became president in August after Erdogan called a snap parliamentary election that his AK Party won.

The AK Party has said the draft constitution, due to replace a text dating back to a time of military rule in the 1980s, will boost individual freedoms in Turkey, a European Union candidate. Firat said the government wanted a wider debate about the principles and aims of the new constitution, adding that opponents were trying to whip up secularist fears artificially by concentrating solely on the headscarf issue. "The headscarf is an extension of freedom of belief," he said.

EC positive; Germany and France less so
It is not only Turkey's secular elite that is alarmed by the religious proclivities of the AK party in government, but influential people in the EU itself. However, the European Commission said, on December 4, that the EU should seek negotiations with Turkey on membership of the 27-nation bloc, despite comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the contrary.

"We think we should stick to this commitment. The European Commission advocates pursuing these negotiations," Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said at a regular briefing. The Commission, the European Union's executive arm, was responding to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's reaffirmation of opposition to that goal.

Merkel had reiterated in a speech to her Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) annual party congress on December 3 that she was opposed to Turkey joining the EU. Instead, she called for a "privileged partnership" between the bloc and Ankara. It is a view shared by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Commission spokesman Laitenberger pointed out, however, that EU states had unanimously agreed in 2005 to open negotiations with Ankara -- with a view to membership if it fulfilled criteria. He said that final decisions about membership should be made at the end of talks.

Merkel distances CDU from SPD
Merkel's comments in her December 3 speech were apparently an attempt to demarcate policy differences on Turkey between her conservative CDU and her centre-left junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD).

EU diplomats said France wanted to have the word "accession" eliminated from the section concerning negotiations with Turkey in a statement on the EU's enlargement policy, which the bloc's foreign ministers approved on December 3. Ankara has said it wants nothing but membership and has rejected the idea of an "enhanced partnership" with the EU.

Diversifying foreign policy
Turkey's expanding ties with other regions, often driven by energy needs, should be seen as complementing, not replacing, its decades-old drive to join the EU. Gul, who as foreign minister helped start EU accession talks was in Pakistan and Turkmenistan recently, and was due in Kazakhstan.

'This new multi-dimensional foreign policy does not come at the expense of our European vocation; but our place in the world is changing,' said Suat Kiniklioglu, a member of parliament for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling centre-right AK Party. 'We lack the clout to broker big international deals, but we are getting to a point where Turkey is recognised as a player in places like the Middle East and Central Asia,' he said.

Muslim, secular and democratic Turkey – a NATO member that for decades tended to box well below its diplomatic weight – clearly has much to offer, and the world seems increasingly interested in its perspective. Almost uniquely in its region, Turkey has good relations with both Iran and Israel, for example, and its peacekeepers are active from Kosovo and Lebanon to Afghanistan. In the past two months alone, the foreign ministers of Iran and the United States have rubbed shoulders at a conference of Iraq's neighbours in Istanbul and the Israeli and Palestinian presidents have jointly addressed Turkey's parliament in Ankara.

Erdogan has also cleverly and confidently used threats to send troops into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels hiding there to push President George W. Bush into sharing intelligence with Turkey to help combat the rebels. Aware of Turkey's strategic importance as an ally in a difficult region, the United States – and the EU – have turned a blind eye to Turkish cross-border strikes against the rebels.

Pragmatism and enterprise
'Turkey is not a prime mover, it is in the second division, but it is being increasingly listened to across the region,' said Hugh Pope, author of books on Turkey including 'Sons of the Conquerors' about the Turks and Central Asia. 'Turkey has shed some of the former arrogance it showed in its dealings with the Middle East and Central Asia,' he said, emphasising the pragmatism and entrepreneurial spirit displayed by Turkish businessmen, engineers and educators in the region.

Ottoman Turks ruled the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa for centuries from Istanbul. Turkey's more active diplomacy is not without its problems. The United States, in particular, is vexed by Turkey's growing energy links with Iran, though Ankara has made clear it shares Washington's opposition to Tehran building nuclear weapons. The Islamist-rooted AK Party is also respected perhaps more in the Arab world than previous Turkish governments because of its Muslim piety as well as its success in overseeing annual economic growth in Turkey of around 7 percent. Gulf Arab money has been pouring into Istanbul.

Analysts say Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan's chief foreign policy adviser, is the mastermind behind Turkey's growing diplomatic dynamism during the past five years of AK Party rule. Like Gul, Davutoglu hails from piously conservative central Anatolia but sees no contradiction between Islam and democracy, between Turkey's EU bid and building closer Middle East ties.

President Gul's own approach stands in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a shy, ascetic former judge, who rarely left Ankara and had no interest in foreign affairs. 'Gul really wants to make up for lost time and re-engage, especially in Central Asia,' said Kiniklioglu. Turkey aims to become an energy hub for Caspian and Central Asian oil and gas exports transiting to Western markets. Existing and planned pipelines across Turkish territory, the West hopes, will reduce its reliance on Russian energy exports.

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