16 May 2007

1692) Sarkozy, South Caucus & Pamuk

  1. All Eyes On The Smiling Devil, Nicolas Sarkozy Amanda Akcakoca
  2. On The South Caucasus Beril Dedeoglu
  3. Erdogan Calls On Sarkozy To End All Prejudices
  4. Deconstructing Pamuk Damaris Kremida

All Eyes On The Smiling Devil, Nicolas Sarkozy
Amanda Akcakoca a.akcakoca@todayszaman.com
Today Nicolas Sarkozy with be sworn in as the new French president.
In Belgium he has dominated television screens. We have been subjected to Sarkozy the sportsman, drenched in sweat from his morning runs and bull-herding dressed as a cowboy, Sarkozy the family man with his young son and wife and Sarkozy the people’s president out on the streets with his fans. His entrance into Elysée Palace has created an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement in Europe not seen for many years.

How his Cabinet is being formed is interesting and the cause of much gossip. He is expected to reduce the number of ministers from 25 to around 15, with about 50 percent being women. This is an unprecedented step in a country lingering near the bottom of the EU’s women in politics rankings, where only 14 percent of parliament members are women. Over the last few days Sarkozy has been summoning hopefuls to his office. He seems to be planning to surround himself with experienced politicians and interestingly many of these faces belong to Socialists. Sarkozy would be taking unprecedented steps by including them in his Cabinet. But he has good reason for doing so. Firstly he wants to create a big dynamic in France and while tackling his extremely ambitious reform agenda it will be more difficult for the Socialists to criticize him while they are represented in the Cabinet. Secondly he wants to get a strong result in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. As many supporters of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and Union for French Democracy (UDF) were disillusioned and divided by the presidential elections, they are expected to switch alliance and support the Union for Popular Movement (UMP). His Cabinet choices will also be influential here. Furthermore Sarkozy needs to have two thirds of the seats in Parliament to eventually be able to comfortably ratify a revived European Constitution. He seems to have a logical and clever strategy, which could be a taste of things to come. One of the reasons the French picked Sarkozy was their quest for a strong-minded leader who has the courage to implement radical decisions

Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the first EU leader to visit Sarkozy. Sarkozy and Blair have been friends for some time, and Blair was only too happy to give him some policy tips over dinner in Paris on Saturday night. Next in line is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will meet Sarkozy only hours after he is sworn in today. Sarkozy is expected to build on his already close relationship with Merkel, continuing the traditional French-German axis. They will no doubt brainstorm on the Constitution, although there is now more “fog” surrounding Sarkozy’s position on this as he being pressed by many close aides to move away from his original “mini-treaty” preference to something more substantive, but which could still be ratified without a referendum. Merkel is also likely to ask Sarkozy to be less vocal in his dislike of Turkey accession talks, given the current turmoil in the country in the run up to the 22 July general elections and is unlikely to join forces with him to plot against Ankara. The EU does not want to be seen as being responsible for pushing Turkey over the edge.

The EU Council on June 21-22 will also be a crucial test. By that point the German presidency should have opened at least two more negotiating chapters with Turkey. Will Sarkozy again loudly voice his concerns over Turkey’s accession process or will he be more soft-footed. I am not convinced Sarkozy will do anything drastic. France does not want to be accused of excluding Turkey, but rather they may take a slower approach of irritating Turkey to a level of frustration that Ankara could end up being the side to ask for an alternative to full membership. But realistically I can’t imagine Turkey falling for this tactic. Furthermore the halting of accession talks can only happen with unanimity and this will never be achieved. Nevertheless if Turkey continues to shoot itself in the foot as it has over the last weeks Sarkozy will not have any job to do as Turkey will slowly hammer the nails into its own coffin.
16.05.2007



On The South Caucasus
Beril Dedeoglu b.dedeoglu@todayszaman.com
Galatasaray University organized a conference last week on south Caucasus security, focusing on the relations between Europe, Turkey and the south Caucasus. Participants from Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were side-by-side with representatives from NATO and the EU. The conference’s aim was to have the participants present their points of view in order to see if a common ground could be found. One of the objectives was to find out how NATO, the EU and south Caucasus countries perceive each other.

The first observation was about the behavior of the students of these countries, who acted in harmony and good will. The efforts of Galatasaray University’s students to assure a serene atmosphere were remarkably successful. Of course it’s not possible to say that the student’s attentive, friendly and coherent attitudes were always shared by their country’s government workers, who tried to publicize their countries’ official positions.

In the workshops the positions of the EU and NATO concerning today’s global threats and their ramifications for this particular region was the recurrent subject. The speaker from NATO emphasized that the threats originate from social instabilities, lack of democracy and economic problems. The EU representative preferred to explain in detail about the police missions undertaken by the EU. This seemed like a shift in the roles. We heard about the astonishing success (!) of the EU in Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Far East and Africa, but nothing about the EU’s approach on the south Caucasus.

The audience insisted on two main issues; the first about the future of Kosovo. Those who asked questions with reproving attitude about this issue were generally from Russia. The number of questions about Kosovo at a conference about the south Caucasus made us wonder if some people envisioned enacting the same “solution” in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The second important question was about the possible accession of the Caucasus countries to the EU. The people from that region have no doubt of Turkey’s future EU membership. The answer to that question was vague. The participants from the region seemed pretty sure that one day they will become NATO members, but they were not sure about EU membership. Even if the opinion about NATO is quite exaggerated, their concerns about the EU’s lack of plans for the region are fully justified. Moreover the fact that they trust NATO more is understandable, as such is always the case in former communist countries.

It was important to be able to discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh issue with Azerbaijani and Armenian participants under the mediation of an international relations student from Turkey. The speaker from Armenia was a NGO member and the speaker from Azerbaijan was a civil servant. Even if we can’t talk of a real tension, the atmosphere was unpleasant, as the audience noticed. Even if all the participants from the region had insisted that Turkey is one of the parts of this conflict, the Turkish listeners managed not to take sides. Students witnessed a case study on peacemaking and had the opportunity to think about the meaning of the disputes originating from national egos.

We also noticed that during the whole conference, which took many hours, two key words were never used. These were “Russia” and “democratization.” This absence, which is problematic not only for the Caucasian states but also for Turkey, made us understand that these two words will in fact be the main determining words of the future world system.

16.05.2007



Erdogan Calls On Sarkozy To End All Prejudices
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday that hostility toward Turkey's bid to join the European Union would fan anti-Europe sentiments among Turks and damage bilateral ties.

"Mr. Sarkozy has to overcome his prejudices. ... If we are to unite civilizations within the EU, if we say the EU is not a Christian club, then Mr. Sarkozy should review his opinions," Erdogan said at the annual assembly of the media watchdog International Press Institute in Istanbul.

"My people have concerns vis-à-vis the European Union. ... The negative stance of a country (on Turkey's accession) leads to a negative stance against that country here," Erdogan said.“A mistaken voice to be raised on this issue will change the Turkish people’s attitude toward France,” he added. “So Sarkozy probably should consider that.”

Erdogan also struck a note of self-criticism, saying that Ankara had failed to explain to the French public the historically close political relations and economic exchanges between Turkey and France. “We have to build warmer ties with the French people,” he said.

During his speech, the prime minister also expressed frustration with the foreign media for frequently using the phrase “two different Turkeys” since demonstrations started against the government in mid-April. The phrase “two Turkeys” is used to express the concept that the Turkish nation is divided between supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and those who feel that their secular and modern lifestyle is under threat, which the prime minister said was a misconception.

Criticizing some foreign newspapers for their comment that Turkey was divided into “two separate” countries along the axis of secularists and anti-secularists in their coverage of recent mass demonstrations, he recalled that nobody in the international media had suggested that there were “two Frances” in looking at the recent demonstrations against the election of President Sarkozy.

“They immediately started saying ‘There are two Turkeys.’ It is impossible to accept this. The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state of law and it will stay that way. This is our common ground. Nobody will compromise that. This is the common ground that all demonstrations share. There is no way we can compromise any of these.”

Erdogan also emphasized that the General Staff, which issued a statement expressing concern about the presidential election and warning of intervention, was attached to the Prime Ministry. “The military is just an institution and it is attached to the prime minister. We have to put this straight if we believe in democracy,” Erdogan said.

The prime minister also reiterated that the AK Party was not a religion-oriented party. “Although some might not want to understand, we are all against using religion in politics in this country. We see secularism as a guarantee for the lifestyles of all of us.”

Erdogan also expressed his opinion that the world’s problems today did not stem from a conflict between the West and the Islamic world, but rather because of the unequal level of development between societies and countries.

16.05.2007
Today’s Zaman Istanbul



Deconstructing Pamuk
May 15, 2007
Damaris Kremida
Istanbul - Turkish Daily News

In the span of five days two Orhan Pamuk symposiums are held in Istanbul, recognizing him in his true right as a novelist.

Orhan Pamuk has been dressed in the finery of the West's literary ‘garments' and become an established and politicized writer. He has received the Nobel Prize in literature, been tried for insulting ‘Turkishness', and yesterday he received an honorary PhD degree from his Alma matter, Bog(aziçi University. In the meantime academics present deconstructive, post modern, papers at symposiums analyzing the importance of symbols or objects in his novels, such as snowflakes; and extremists threaten to raid the meetings.

But underneath the emperor's clothes is just a boy who likes to read and write. “The reason my books are read and loved this much is my amateur childish attachment to being a writer; the desk, the writing and the books,” Pamuk said yesterday at the opening ceremony of a symposium in his honor at Bog(aziçi University.

Last week on Friday Kadir Has University also held a symposium on Orhan Pamuk's novels. Maureen Freely, known as Pamuk's English voice, spoke at the meeting. Extremists threatened to raid the symposium if it was held, organizers told the Turkish Daily News. Freely, an old classmate, close friend and collaborator of Pamuk's explained that what Pamuk does with his writings is open up a new space. “He begins a discussion,” Freely told the TDN. “He does not wish to be caught in an east-west tension conversation although many in the West would like him to.”

One wonders what Orhan Pamuk felt yesterday morning when with childlike simplicity he walked on the stage at Bog(aziçi University's Albert Hall to receive an honorary PhD in literature, in the same room where 40 years ago he passed his preparatory exam in English. One would think he was pleased, that scholars are finally splitting hairs over the depth and meaning of his work and recognizing him as a literary tour de force. “I'm very lucky, but it's also true that I work hard. I love reading and writing very much,” he said upon accepting the PhD.

However, it escapes no one that in Pamuk's case, and at this moment in Turkish history, he is more than a world acclaimed literary genius. He is also the most sought after mouthpiece in the West on Turkish issues. His comments about the deaths of Armenians and Kurds and subsequent trial for “insulting Turkishness,” as well as his fame have put him in the political spotlight, but he is done making comments like that. Immediately after receiving the Nobel Prize last winter he said he would no longer discuss Turkey's politics “as a matter of principle.” “I'm looking at the world from a cultural window,” he had said.

Maureen Freely, a journalist and novelist in her own right, who translated Pamuk's last three books spoke at Kadir Has on the Haliç in Istanbul on Friday last week about the east and west tension in Orhan Pamuk's work; actually she debunked it.

She said that it would be best not to speak of the east-west tension at all, because all it does is offer tiresome questions and an expectation from authors to offer solutions and answers. She explained that this is the bind Pamuk finds himself stuck in. “The east-west divide does not exist but is used by west to justify its dominant position. Even if he does not want to he has to explain things when he is talking to western audiences,” she said.

Freely warned that “when you are a writer there is a danger in being used as a pawn in the West.” One reason she thinks its important not to speak on behalf of Turkey or politics, as an author, is to not play into those east-west polemics.

Pamuk reengages with the east-west divide in his novels and plays games with it, explained Freely. He talks about seeing new ways of seeing. He is a visual artist.

When an audience member asked her to respond to some people's belief that Pamuk does not read very well in Turkish, and that he is tedious, Freely smiled and said jokingly, “I love it when they say that!” She is currently translating one of Pamuk's older books, “Other Colors”, and said that no one had complained about his language in his first two books, because back then his style fit into the good republican novel, and that later he was deliberately introducing unsettling forms to go against the republican form. “He is building images so he's more interested in what you see.”

As far as whether the translations are better or worse, “That's a good way for people who do not like his politics to undermine his international success,” she said.

“He is a slow writer. I have a degree in comparative literature. I enjoy his books most when I'm translating them,” Freely said. “I don't believe his books are for everybody.”

People get locked into contradictions and silences, said Freely. Pamuk “dissolves these contradictions and lets himself out of the room; himself and his readers.”

Who is Maureen Freely:
Maureen Freely, who was born in 1952 in New Jersey, grew up in Turkey. She now lives in England where she lectures at the University of Warwick. Freely is also a regular contributor to several London papers and a novelist. Freely's most recent book is Enlightenment, a novel about Robert College when it was a University, and “the time when paradise fell apart” because of a political murder during the 1970s. She said that she is sure Pamuk's work has affected her in ways she will understand later. “All my life is going into writing, I have wanted to always travel in my work. To go into new places, to get new perspectives and to try to understand you are dealing with the world but cannot see things until you see them in a different light.”

Freely has translated Snow, the Black Book, Istanbul: Memories and the City, and is currently translating Other Colors. Many translations of Pamuk's books into languages other than English are based on Freely's work.

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