23 Haziran 2011 Perşembe

Vehicle sales jump in Turkey while fuel consumption falls

Today's Zaman

From 2003 through 2010 vehicle sales in Turkey rose by 70 percent while gasoline and diesel consumption in the same period increased by only 20 percent, recent data have shown.
According to Turkish Petroleum Industry Association (PETDER) data, vehicle sales from 2003 to 2010 surpassed fuel consumption in Turkey. The gap was more significant between 2007 and 2010, when total vehicle sales totaled 1.33 million units while fuel consumption fell by 575,000 cubic meters.
A number of experts cite as the reason for this gap the increase in oil smuggled from neighboring countries and a rise in the use of Number 10 oils, which are used as fuel for tractors and older trucks and added to diesel fuel to lower prices. Turkish Fuel Station, Oil and Gas Company Employers' Union (TABGİS) President Ferruh Temel Zülfikar is one expert who holds this opinion on the gap. “Number 10 oils are cheap. The government should reduce the taxes on gasoline and diesel or prevent the use of these fuels [Number 10 oils],” he told the Today's Zaman on Wednesday. PETDER Secretary-General Erol Metin has expressed similar views, saying that Number 10 oil consumption surpassed 1.5 million tons in 2010.

Turkey's New AKP Government: Will It Move Towards a Liberal or Illiberal Democracy?

 Joshua W. WALKER** & Lenore G.MARTIN*      The Huffington Post

The Turkish election results are in with few surprises but with major questions as to Turkey's political directions. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), with its conservative-Muslim roots, claims the most victory, taking over half of the votes and improving three straight elections in a row, though it will lose seats in the new parliament. The Republican People's Party (CHP), with its secular, Kemalist legacy, improved on its last showing, but gained only a quarter of the vote. The ultranationalist National Movement Party (MHP) survived last-minute scandals to enter parliament with 13% of the vote. Even the Kurdish party managed to take seats in parliament with its independent candidates garnering 6% of the votes. What do the results betoken for the self-proclaimed model democracy in the Middle East? With these election results Turkey now faces a political crossroads. The new government of the AKP can either take Turkey down the road to constitutional reform in a more liberal democratic direction or revert to some of its campaign rhetoric that promoted illiberal tendencies that will only increase Turkey's societal divisions and repress fundamental political freedoms.

Arabs should follow Turkish model

Ramzy Baraoud*        Gulf News

Success of its democracy is clearly institutionalised, not merely inspired by one charismatic individual.

The third consecutive victory of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the country’s parliamentary election on June 12 was noted by many for its timing, and its relevance to the political turmoil currently under way across the Middle East.

Commentators in the Arab world have long been fascinated with Turkey’s success at achieving a stable democracy, a thoroughly functioning and growing economy, a vigorous civil society, and a largely free media, while simultaneously maintaining an Islamic political identity. With the exception of  Turkey, political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa has been trapped between different ideas as to whether Islam and democracy are compatible.

Islamic politics as a whole has seemed less than encouraging. The Taliban’s ‘Islamic emirate’ experience in Afghanistan represented an example of political Islam gone wrong. The Algerian army’s violent crackdown on Islamists following their 1991 election victory — and the civil war that followed — left behind hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded.

22 Haziran 2011 Çarşamba

Turkey becomes fourth country raising its R&D spending most in Europe


BRUSSELS - Turkey has become the fourth country, raising its R&D spending the most in Europe, according to a report.

The European Commission has released its innovation union 2011 competition report, and according to the report Turkey has raised its annual R&D expenditures more than 10 percent between 2000 and 2009.
Thus, Turkey has been ranked the fourth among countries raising their R&D spending the most in Europe.

The European Commission thinks that Turkey could make a giant leap forward with its national science, technology and renovation strategy for 2011 and 2016.

The report said that although Turkey was below the EU average in new doctorate graduate and patent applications, it was relatively powerful in scientific publications.

Around 6.0 percent of scientific publications in Turkey had been among the most referred publications in the world, the report said. According to the report, Turkey allocated 0.85 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D expenditures, which was below 2 percent EU average.

The European Commission expects R&D spending in Turkey to reach 1.7 percent by 2020. However, the EU is expected to raise its R&D expenditures to 2.2 percent by then.

Nabucco chances grow as Europe’s atomic future dims

Michael KAHN / Sylvia WESTALL

Foreign policy challenges after AKP’s victory (1)

Ömer TAŞPINAR     Today's Zaman

Foreign policy was conspicuously absent during the election campaign. Neither the Justice and Development Party (AKP) nor the Republican People’s Party (CHP) bothered to talk about the European Union or the revolutions in the Middle East.
This was probably because Turkish public opinion is overall satisfied with the more independent and self-confident approach pursued by the AKP government. Yet, Turkey’s approaches to both the Middle East and the EU urgently need fine-tuning. The Arab Spring is rapidly changing the balance of power in the Middle East and is causing problems for Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s “zero-problems with neighbors” policy. After the emergence of new regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the turmoil in Yemen and Bahrain, and civil war in Libya, now Syria is the latest Arab nation facing the rise of a people’s movement.

Until recently, the Syrian-Turkish bilateral relationship was a remarkable story of a journey from enmity to friendship. It was also the cornerstone of Turkey’s zero-problems strategy. At a time when a brutal crackdown is taking place in Syria and thousands of Syrian refugees are crossing the border with Turkey, this situation is putting much pressure on Turkey’s shoulders. The events in Syria provide a crucial litmus test for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in terms of testing his proclaimed commitment to democratization in the region. This is not a matter of idealism versus realpolitik for Turkish foreign policy. Turkey needs to change its “zero problems” policy with Syria, and not because of its ideals of freedom and democracy in the region. Logic, realism and self-interest should guide Turkey’s changed strategy towards Damascus.

21 Haziran 2011 Salı

Turkey Recalibrating Regional Role

Barbara Slavin   IPS

WASHINGTON, Jun 17, 2011 (IPS) - As thousands of Syrian refugees pour over the Turkish border, the just re- elected government in Ankara is confronting the limits of its "no problems" policy toward its neighbours.

Despite massive interaction with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and deepening Turkish involvement in the Syrian economy, Turkey is coming to terms with the prospect of a long, bloody civil war in Syria and the possible toppling of the Assad regime.

Increasingly, Turkey also finds itself on the opposite side of Iran on regional questions and competing for influence in Syria and Iraq. Turkish efforts to mediate a resolution of the international dispute with Iran over its nuclear program appear to have come to a dead end.

In the aftermath of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party’s re-election Sunday, analysts predict that Turkey will recalibrate its regional role.

"Syria was the cornerstone of the ‘zero problems’ foreign policy," said Omer Taspinar, director of the Turkey project at the Brookings Institution.

20 Haziran 2011 Pazartesi

A new ‘golden age’ in energy

Gila Benmayor       Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review

We are entering a phase where interesting developments are being experienced in the world energy market.
Before moving on to the world, first, one piece of news from Turkey.

The Nabucco Natural Gas Pipeline Project, which has not been appearing on the press for a long time, is preparing to come back on the agenda next week on Wednesday with an agreement to be signed in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

The fact that European Union Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger and Special Envoy of the United States Secretary of State for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar will participate at the signing ceremony, which will be held between the energy ministers of those transit countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Hungary) that the natural gas pipeline will pass and Nabucco companies, is a sign of the huge significance Nabucco holds for both Europe and the U.S.

Nabucco’s signing ceremony coincides with the exact period where the world of energy has turned its eyes on natural gas.

Syria’s operations close to border may spark clash with Turkey

Muhlis Kaçar     Today’s Zaman

The times of good relations between Turkey and Syria, during which the once-hostile neighbors were brought together politically, economically and socially for a period of time and which saw unprecedented agreements, such as the elimination of visa requirements and shared border crossing projects, may have taken a hit due to the Syrian army's brutal crackdown on opposition protestors and the civilian killings which are reported to have happened close to Turkey's border.
Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies (ORSAM) expert Professor Veysel Ayhan warned that Turkey will not be a bystander if and when the Syrian army, which is located close to the Syrian-Turkish border, starts killing civilians in front of the eyes of Turkey.

Turkey mulls buffer zone on Syrian border


More than 8,000 Syrians have amassed in a tent city in Turkey's Hatay province and, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's violent crackdown showing no signs of abating, thousands more are expected to follow suit. In response, Turkish forces may establish a military buffer zone on Syrian territory to accommodate the steady influx of refugees.

According to the Washington Post, some degree of cross-border activity by Turkey has likely been cleared by Syria. In particular, plans to deliver food, clean water, and medicine into Syria appear to be underway following Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's meeting with Assad's special envoy, former army chief of staff Hassan Turkmani.

Further unilateral action by Turkey to create a formal buffer zone would involve sending Turkish soldiers across the Syrian border to establish a "safe haven" for Syrian refugees.  

Establishing such a zone without Syrian permission would represent a significant shift from the ruling Justice and Development Party's "zero problems" foreign policy. "Once Turkey establishes a formal buffer zone, it's hard to see how Turkish-Syrian relations remain strong," said Nuh Yilmaz, the director of SETA Foundation at Washington D.C., a think-tank dedicated to regional and international issues concerning Turkey. 

Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Ambitions Part of Broader Strategy

Saurav JHA     World Politics Review

Saudi Arabia's recent announcement that it plans to build 16 large reactors by 2030 may have seemed incongruous in the wake of the Fukushima crisis. In fact, it actually buttresses the Middle East's current trajectory as a major future market for nuclear energy and underscores the continuing attractiveness of nuclear power for industrially underdeveloped economies. Moreover, given the sheer size of the plan -- well more than $100 billion will go to the reactors alone -- Riyadh is in a position to set terms and use the project to enhance new partnerships while balancing old ones.

The kingdom's interest in nuclear energy is often traced to its rivalry for regional leadership with Iran and Riyadh's unwillingness to be outstripped by Tehran's nuclear prowess. But Saudi nuclear ambitions crystallized in the run-up to the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, when it realized that global efforts to control climate change could end up punishing countries that put off including noncarbon-based energy sources in their power portfolios. In April 2010, King Abdullah issued a royal decree stating, "The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the kingdom's growing requirements for energy to generate electricity, produce desalinated water and reduce reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources." Left unsaid is that those depleting hydrocarbon resources would be put to better use generating export revenue to facilitate the modernization of the Saudi economy rather than meeting the kingdom's growing domestic electricity requirements. Saudi Arabia is at present experiencing 6-8 percent annual growth in electricity demand and will need to put in place 60,000 megawatts of new capacity by 2020. ...


Iran Seizes Opportune Moment to Project Naval Power

Abhijit SINGH     World Politics Review

In an extraordinary development, Iran deployed submarines to the Red Sea last week, prompting fears that the Islamic Republic is engaging in another brazen show of strength. Although Tehran has long been convinced of its regional supremacy, this is the first time that Iranian submarines have been sent into the Red Sea -- previously off-limits to Iranian naval ships. Reports suggest the submarines are accompanying warships of the Iranian navy's 14th Fleet, with the ostensible purpose of their mission to collect data in international waters and carry out surveillance against suspicious activity. But there might be more to the deployment than meets the eye.

Iran's naval forces have become visibly proactive in recent months. Its warships have ventured outside the Persian Gulf and well beyond Tehran's traditional maritime sphere of influence. In February, two Iranian warships, the frigate Alvand and the tanker Kharg, sailed through the Suez Canal on an unprecedented visit to Syria, provoking a sharp reaction from Israel. Egypt, keen to signal a shift in policy in the post-Mubarak era, allowed the warships to pass through the waterway -- a move widely interpreted as reflecting Cairo's desire to re-establish ties with Tehran severed 30 years ago. ...