TURKEY, THE MIDDLE EAST, SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA: EU AS THE OTHER
Saturday, 29. October
Moderator: Ana Frank, Peace Institute, Slovenia
Carmen Rodriguez Lopez obtained her PhD at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), Spain, with a dissertation about the Turkish political parties’ perspectives on the European Union. She is a researcher specialized on contemporary Turkish studies at UAM, where she also teaches about the Democratization Process in Turkey at the Arabic and Islamic Department´s Master Programme. She is a Member of the Taller de Estudios Internacionales Mediterráneos Electoral Watch and author on the book Turkey: The Bet for Europe / Turquía: La apuesta por Europa (La Catarata, Madrid 2007).
Turkey as a Model for Democratic Consolidation at the Mediterranean and the Middle East
The presentation will address the prospect of Turkey as foreseeable model for democratic consolidation at the Mediterranean and the Middle East and will also observe the possibility that the democratic processes in this area may affect Turkish domestic politics. It does not seem feasible that the democratization experience of a specific country can be exported directly to others, but it is suggested that the Turkish democratization experience can have a positive influence on the transitions processes that are spreading in the region.
Turkey has already a significant, although discontinuous, democratic background and currently is still going through a democratization process deeply influenced by its candidacy towards the EU. Although it has to resolve important conflicts yet, like the Kurdish issue, the civil-military relations and the expansion of freedom of expression, the country counts with a well developed institutional structure, has experienced multi party politics for decades and, compared to other neighbouring countries, the legal situation of women is much better off, as its status in the Civil Code shows. These facts could be inspiring to some countries in the region; also, the developing of political and civil society transnational networks could have a positive influence in this sense. It is argued that the success of the Turkish democratization experience could act as a catalyst for further reforms in the region; on the contrary, the failure of this process may deter democratization expectations in neighbouring countries.
On the other hand, another possible scenario may envisage a positive influence on the Turkish democratization process by the Arab Spring if it successfully fosters democratic politics on the area, or a negative one if, as some observers have pointed out, the political transitions the countries are experienced end in a semi-democratic systems with significant authoritarian institutions, or promote such a level of instability that security may come before democratization in Turkish politics. Therefore, as it will be explained in detail, these likely scenarios may envisage a reciprocal influence between Turkey and the neighbouring countries going through democratic transitions.
Edgar Busuttil, Fr. (SJ) has been the Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Malta since 2007. He founded the “Paulo Freire” Institute in Zejtun, Malta with the aim of promoting literacy and community development among the poor. He was the first Director of the Institute between 2000 and 2007. He also taught Bioethics at Sogang University in Korea. For several years he worked as a research assistant in Bioethics at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta. He studied Chemistry and Biology at the University of Malta, Philosophy in Ireland and Theology in Rome, Italy where he specialized in Bioethics.
Europe and Africa: View at the EU from Migrants Position
Malta is the smallest State in the European Union. Our population is around four hundred thousand and the area of the Maltese archipelago is three hundred and sixteen square kilometres. Two recent events have had an impact on Malta in the past few years. These have been our joining the European Union and the recent large influx of irregular immigrants from sub Saharan Africa in precarious boats. Both these events have provoked fears: fears of losing our identity as Maltese; fears of losing our religion and traditions.
In the case of our joining the EU most of these fears were “counterbalanced” by the prospects of greater economic stability: Malta went beyond its fears and joined the EU and the main political parties became united in accepting the will of the majority. However, with regards to the issue of irregular immigration our fears have grown beyond proportion. We are witnessing the development of a mainstream discourse which pictures sub Saharan Africans as the epitome of all our ills and problems.
Malta has an important choice to make today. It could choose to become overwhelmed by its fears or it could look at these new realities as a golden opportunity to grow and to break out of its closed and insular mentality. Rather than being taken up by paralyzing and destructive fears we must look at these changes as a new opportunity to open up; to try to understand the world around us in order to discover our new role as a people living on the crossroads of different civilizations. In this panel discussion I will focus on the sub-Saharan Africans: Who they are and why they are coming over to Malta and explore ways in which constructive dialogue may be promoted between the Maltese and these immigrants in a framework of the dialogue which needs to be promoted between Europe and Africa. How can we accept this challenge and make it a positive opportunity for all?
Özge Genç received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey. She received her MA in International Politics and Middle East Studies from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London, UK with the joint support of British Chevening Scholarship and Turkish Education Foundation (TEV). She is currently a PhD candidate in Political Science at Istanbul Bilgi University and her research is on Turkish secularism. She worked as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute (MEI), USA between August 2009 and 2010.
Genç joined Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) in 2006 and is currently the Program Officer of TESEV Democratization Program. Her working areas are Religion-State-Society Relations, Minority Rights and Constitutional Citizenship.
Let’s Call Spade a Spade in Turkish-European Relations
The current atmosphere of EU-Turkey relations is not promising mostly due to the ambiguity of the political will to accept and commit to each other on both sides. The pattern of relations, which have long been marked by unequal terms, not fulfilled promises, fears and prejudices and lack of profound knowledge about each other, are changing gradually. Here is what Turkish public sees the current picture of events: Turkey is engaged in a robust regional policy, developing a strong economy with and gradually fulfilling its democratization promises in line with not only the benchmarks set by the EU, but also with the demands of its newly emerging and growing civil society at home. Europe, on the other hand, is going through a severe economic crisis rendering the future of the Union uncertain, facing a growth of ultra-nationalist political parties and perished by its own mistakes in dealing with its migrants. European policy elite and public opinion analyze Turkey as a monolithic entity, a foreign policy actor to be precise, regardless of paying attention to the ongoing social and political change. Europe buys the Turkish Kemalist self-acclaimed idea of a modern secular (laic) country and develops tools for Turkey’s democratization accordingly. Europe sees Turkey as a homogeneous entity that shifts between centuries old modern Western binaries such as the East and West; and the secular and religious while putting forth very little effort in contributing to a real solution of problems in its region such as the war between Turkish state and Kurdish guerrilla and Cyprus conflict.
My presentation will try to reveal the underlining foundations of the policies and attitudes taken up by both sides by focusing on much consumed frameworks of tolerance, secularism and multiculturalism. I will also analyse the current patterns of relations when democratization in Turkey’s region is becoming less of a top-down imposition and more of a ‘street’ imposition; and when European benchmarks compete with more authentic models and references of democratization for those countries that do not have a historical track of Western style modernization.