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The Year Of Turkey 18 juin 2009

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, France, Turkey / Turquie, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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Sabah (Turkey), 18/06/2009                                                 Türkçe

By Erdal Şafak

We recently published news about the construction of a replica of a ship which left Foca 2,600 years ago to go to France carrying Anatolians who went on to found Marseille. The replica ship set sail from Foca and is now in the Mediterranean. It will reach Marseille on July 1, when the Year of Turkey will start in France.

A huge program has been prepared for the Year of Turkey event, which will continue until March 2010. There will be more than 400 activities, including a Mercan Dede concert, an exhibit of sultans’ caftans at the Louvre, and Ramadan night entertainments. But as the year approached, France started to get anxious and even concerned. They got suspicious that Ankara wasn’t very interested in the nine-month event. Nor were they entirely wrong, as Turkey did lose some enthusiasm, or more precisely it was made to lose enthusiasm due to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s anti-Turkey stance.

For example, the Year of Turkey was initially planned to cover 12 months, starting this March and lasting through next March. But the start date was delayed from March to July by Sarkozy and the French government. They did this because they didn’t want it to affect this month’s European Parliament elections. Turkey didn’t influence the elections, but it was used as fodder throughout the campaign by the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), Sarkozy’s party. The French media said Turkey’s European Union bid was the third-largest factor in peoples’ votes. So the UMP sowed fear with Turkey’s possible membership and so won a victory at the polls.

As the French socialists support our membership, though conditionally, the UMP signaled during the campaign that ‘only we can stop Turkey’s EU journey.’ They also reiterated that they made this decision, like blocking the opening of the fifth chapter in Turkey’s membership talks, through Sarkozy’s initiative. France thought that those chapters would lead to full membership and so blocked them.

And finally Sarkozy harshly and openly criticized US President Barack Obama’s suggestion that Turkey should become an EU member. All these elements carried Turkey away from France and offended it. Agence France Presse reported signs of this disappointment, such as President Abdullah Gul canceling a dinner in Istanbul to fund Year of Turkey activities set to be attended by representatives of 200 companies, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan almost withdrawing Turkey’s financial support for the event. They’re right. So should this disappointment and loss of enthusiasm be taken to the extent of withdrawing all our support for the Year of Turkey in France? In my view, no. France’s anti-Turkey stance allegedly derives from the fact that it doesn’t know Turkey well enough. The Year of Turkey can become a very good opportunity to test this allegation, and if it’s true, to create a basis to change it.

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