Books on Turkey
Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
Year of Elections
In the November 2002 ballot, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) elected 363
lawmakers to the 550-seat legislative branch. The AKP is an Islamicist party,
which has proved to be moderate and judicious by and large. Its leader, Recep
Tayip Erdogan, has served as prime minister since March 2003. The next
legislative election to parliament will take place on November 4th.
In Turkey, the president is elected to a single seven-year term by the Great
National Assembly. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's mandate will expire in May.
2007 is the year of elections, the first being for the presidency, which is far
more than just an honorific post in Turkey, carrying the responsibility of the
commandership-in-chief of the armed forces and being the safeguard of its
Erdogan Gets Little Support for presidency as yet
Public support for a presidential bid by Turkey's current prime minister is low,
according to a poll by Selcuk University. Only 17.1 per cent of respondents
would opt for Erdogan as their head of state, while 16.8 per cent would choose
parliamentary speaker Bulent Arinc. Erdogan as an avowed Islacist would indeed
be an anomalous figure as the custodian of the secular state. But given his
moderate record perhaps he could be the very man one day.
Incumbent president Sezer is next on the list with 5.9 per cent, followed by
foreign minister Abdullah Gul with 5.6 per cent. Almost 30 per cent of
respondents select none of these men for the country's top political post.
EU Report: Turkey is Full Member in 2015
There is no more insistent topic in Turkish politics than its possible
membership of the European Union (EU). Any sign that Brussels is taking its EU
bid seriously is greeted with alacrity. Hence the welcome for the following
It's officially reported: Turkey will become an EU member in 2015. In the EU's
agriculture report issued in February, 2007 Turkey was shown as one of the
member countries in the part which evaluates the year 2015.
European Commission's agriculture report prepared by many experts shows the
conditions of agriculture sector in the year 2020. The report's part that
evaluates the year 2015, Turkey was shown one of the member states of the EU.
The report said that the amount of Turkish agricultural goods in one year is
equal to the total products of the last 9 countries that entered the Union.
The study evaluated Turkey in the part that covers "expansion of the EU"
and emphasized the importance of Turkey's membership for the agricultural sector
Reporters sans Frontieres
There is an organization whose deliberations are always of interest - but
never more so than today for Turkey. That is Reporters Sans Frontieres, or
Reporters without Borders for Press Freedom. It is the counterpart of Medicins
In January the distinguished Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was
assassinated. Tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral on January 23rd
He held controversial views on the running sore in the Turkish body politic of
the Armenian genocide of 1915, as on several other contentious matters.
Each annual report of the RSF concentrates on the events of the previous year
relevant to it. As it so happens 2006 was an eventful year, indeed, in this
RSF Annual report 2007
Press freedom is still restricted by article 301 of the criminal code, which
is frequently used against journalists, writers and intellectuals mentioning
sensitive topics, such as the Armenian massacres and the Kurdish question.
Negotiations for Turkish membership of the European Union have focused on the
need to change this situation and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said
publicly he wants dialogue about it.
At least 65 people, including many journalists and writers, have been prosecuted
under article 301 of the new criminal code introduced on 1 June 2005. The
article, headed "Denigration of Turkishness, the republic and state organs
and institutions," provides for between six months and three years in
prison for "anyone who openly denigrates the government, judicial
institutions or military or police structures."
Scenes of violence accompanied the trials in 2006 of novelists Orhan Pamuk (who
won the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature) and Elif Shafak, Armenian-origin
journalist Hrant Dink and five columnists with the major dailies Milliyet and
Radikal (Erol Katircioglu, Murat Belge, Haluk Sahin, Hasan Cemal and Smet Berkan).
All were acquitted.
Turks are divided on the issue. The EU enlargement commission's report on 8
November said press freedom must improve and that "freedom of expression in
line with European standards is not yet guaranteed by the present legal
framework (...) Article 301 and other provisions of the Turkish penal code that
restrict freedom of expression need to be brought in line with the European
Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)."
The strong campaign for and against about Turkish EU membership and the award of
the Nobel Prize for literature to a writer being prosecuted for his work forced
the prime minister to publicly declare support for amending article 301. Several
journalists prosecuted under it said they would take their cases to the European
Human Rights Court.
Among them was Dink, editor of the Armenian weekly Agos, who was given a
six-month suspended prison sentence on 7 October 2005 for writing a series of
articles about "Armenian identity." He was prosecuted again on 18 July
2006 four days after an interview with Reuters news agency about his prison
sentence for "insulting Turkishness" in which he used the word
"genocide" about the Turkish massacres of Armenians in 1915. He faced
a new prison sentence of three years.
Amendments to the country's anti-terrorist law that were approved by
parliament on 29 June also threatened freedom of expression by allowing
imprisonment for printing news about "terrorist organisations" and
raised fears of unjustified prosecution of journalists who dared to mention the
subject. Rüstu Demirkaya, of the pro-Kurdish news agency Diha, was jailed on 14
June in the eastern town of Tunceli for "collaborating with the PKK/Kongra-Gel"
after a former militant reportedly accused him of giving the PKK a laptop and 10
blank CDs and telling the party about an ongoing military operation. He faces up
to 12 years in prison.
Three bomb attacks on the far-left daily paper Cumhuriyet on 5, 10 and 11 May
caused much damage but no injuries and its journalists immediately resumed work.
Ilyas Aktas, of the far-left fortnightly Devrimci Demokrasi, was shot and
seriously wounded in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir on 30 March during a
demonstration to honour 14 Kurdish rebels killed by the army a few days earlier.
He died on 14 April.
Police were criticised for failing to help an injured journalist from the daily
Sabah, Aliye Cetinkaya, during a protest in the town of Konya on 10 February
against publication in Europe of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Demonstrators
attacked her because she was not wearing a headscarf, wore jeans and was chewing
gum. She was insulted and stoned and shoes were thrown at her. Police stood by
and colleagues had to take her from the scene.
But 2006 ended with the good news of the release of two journalists of the
pro-Kurdish news agency Diha, Evrim Dengiz and Nesrin Yazar, after nine months
in prison for "undermining the unity of the state and territorial
integrity." They had been arrested while reporting on a demonstration in
support of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in prison since 1999.
In October of 2005, the European Commission voiced official opposition to the
proposed Caucasus railroad bypass of Armenia. A formal statement by the
Commission's Directorate General for Transport and Energy noted that its
construction was both unnecessary and inefficient in light of the existing
railroad connecting Kars, Gyumri of Armenia and Tbilisi.
Armenia calls for establishment of relations
Armenia is ready to establish diplomatic relations with Turkey "without
preconditions," Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister, Arman Kirakosyan, was
quoted by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) as saying on January 24th.
Kirakosyan was visiting the family of Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink,
who had been murdered in Istanbul on January 19th.
The minister had represented Armenia at Dink's funeral, the Anadolu news agency
reported. Turkey has recognised the Republic of Armenia but does not maintain
diplomatic relations. The main obstacle to normalising the situation is the
countries' differences over the deeds of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in
the Ottoman Empire during WW I.
Turkey denies allegations by Armenia and other countries of a systematic
genocide by Ottoman forces. Ankara also sides with Azerbaijan in its fight over
the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Oil refinery in Turkey to cost US$5 billion
Investment will total US$ five billion to build a complex to refine Azerbaijani
oil in Ceyhan, Turkey, Azeri state oil company SOCAR President, Rovnag Abdullaev,
said, Interfax News Agency reported on January 22nd.
"Our plans are to set up a refinery complex in Ceyhan to refine Azerbaijani
oil that has been transported along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline,"
he said. "Initial work on the project is currently underway. Investment is
estimated at US$ five billion according to preliminary calculations," he
said. Azerbaijan, with the help of Turkey, will be able to enter European
markets with the construction of such a complex, Abdullaev said. "We have
opened a representation in Turkey and are actively implementing the
project," he said.
Inter RAO mulls building coal power plant in Turkey
The operator of Russian electricity imports and exports, Inter RAO UES, is
considering building a coal-fired power plant in the north west of Turkey with a
capacity of 300 megawatts, at a cost of US$400 million, the Turkish newspaper
Sabah quoted the main coordinator of TGR Enerji, the Turkish subsidiary of Inter
RAO, Ibrahim Artvinli, as saying.
Inter RAO has confirmed its interest in this project. "This project is of
interest to us, like all other projects in Turkey, but no concrete agreements
have been reached," Boris Zverev, aide to the Inter RAO director general,
said, Interfax News Agency reported.
According to the Sabah report, the Turkish authorities have already granted
Inter RAO a licence to produce coal in the region. The decision to build a
second station in this region will depend on the volume of production and the
quality of the coal, Artvinli said. He said that Inter RAO might also apply to
take part in auctions for the sale of regional grid companies in Turkey, which
are expected to take place in 2007, and to receive a government contract to
build a first nuclear plant in Turkey.
The Inter RAO official did not confirm the report about the nuclear plant.
Unified Energy System of Russia has been waiting since 2003 for the
privatisation of energy assets in Turkey to begin. UES CEO, Anatoly Chubais, has
called the Turkish market "fantastically attractive," and Inter RAO
Chairman of the Board, Andrei Rappoport, announced plans "to become an
active player" in the privatisation of energy assets in Turkey - in both
the grid and generating sectors.
UES started to prepare to take part in the privatisation of Turkish energy
companies in spring 2005: the UES board of directors approved participation by
Inter RAO UES in a deal to acquire at least 70 per cent of Turkish energy trader
TGR Enerji. Inter RAO UES considers this company as a basis for the further
development of its business in Turkey, including exports of electricity to
Turkey from neighbouring countries, including transit through Georgia,
participation in the privatisation of grid and generating companies and the
implementation of investment projects.
The acquisition of a share in TGR Enerji, according to the conditions of the
deal, should have cost Inter RAO UES about US$0.7 million. UES owns 60 per cent
of Inter RAO UES and Rosenergoatom owns another 40 per cent. Foreign energy
acquisitions are included on the Inter RAO UES balance sheet.
Sharp decline in foreign tourists last year
Turkey experienced a sharp decline in the number of foreign visitors in 2006,
according to Turkish statistics released on January 26th, Deutsche
Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
After a record 21 million visitors to Turkey in 2005, the number of foreign
tourists holidaying in Turkey fell by 6.2 per cent to 19.8 million, according to
official statistics released in Ankara. The number of visitors from European
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries in
2006 was 10.2 million, 11.8 per cent down on 2005. Breakdowns for the different
countries were not available. The avian flu crisis has had a negative effect on
Turkish tourism, as had the Danish Mohammed caricatures controversy. The tense
situation in the Middle East and the Football World Championships in Germany
have also adversely impacted tourism, the Turkish newspaper Sabah said. The
previous years had seen record numbers of foreign tourists. In 2004, 17.5
million tourists travelled to Turkey and in 2003, the number was 14.3 million