Turkey: A Misunderstood Nation
Iskenderun: Benoît de LAURELLE, Military attaché – Cemil AKSAK, Sub-Governor of Iskenderun – Bernard EMIÉ, French Ambassador in Ankara – Captain Gilles BOIDEVEZI, Commander of frigate Jean Bart.
I would like to thank to the editor and the contributors of this blog for allowing me to write as a guest. I feel honoured.
Writing an article for French about Turkey is not an easy task. Such as my relationship with both countries. I was born in Paris and stayed there till I was 3 years old. My parents married before my father started his master grade studies at Universite de Paris in early 70’ies. When he finished his studies we have returned. Later I have visited Paris a few times as a tourist. I know that my short stint in France does not qualify me as an expert, but I will try to tell you about my thoughts and feelings anyway.
I have been told by Clarisse (Les Carnets de Clarisse) that the ordinary French people only know the clichés about Turkey. Well clichés make it easier for someone to understand to perceive things but on the other hand they just over simplify facts.As far as ı can see (or watch) it Turkey is perceived as a some semi European semi Middle Eastern country that is poised to steal way work and wealth from French workers. The Plombier polonais is replaced by a Turkish one. And in Turkey France is perceived as a country where Turkey is only remembered during the election and where the Armenian Diaspora is influencing the French politics.
In reality the political and diplomatic relation between the two countries are, way behind economical relations. France is the second biggest market for Turkish goods according to French ambassador and French companies are providing jobs for 100.000 in Turkey. The value of the mutual business is around 10 billion Euros. These are impressive numbers. But these realities of these numbers are not reflected in political environment.
Remember the row between Mr. Sarkozy and Renault Car Company about the shifting of Clio production from France to Bursa Turkey? Renault wanted to shift its entire Clio production from France to its factory in Bursa where the costs especially the cost of labour are lower. Before the involvement of Palais de l’Élysée it was a simple economical matter. Afterwards it turned to be a political matter. And the political solution had nothing to do with the economical realities.
Other countries such as Germany, USA or Russia which also have mutual economical interest with Turkey seem to care a lot more with their relations. They try to have balanced, smooth relations with Turkey. But the relations between France and Turkey seem to be more volatile and temperamental. Even if the French entrepreneurs seem to be interested in Turkey as a market, and production base this interest doesn’t seem to be shared by the politicians.
This week between 12th and 15th March, the crown jewel of French Navy, the carrier Chales De Gaulle is visiting Cyprus and an escort of her, the frigate Jean Bart is visiting Turkey. De Gaulle will conduct joint manoeuvres with Cypriot armed forces whereas the sailors of Jean Bart will visit the graves of French soldiers died during the French occupation of the south east Turkey after the First World War. The symbolisms of these visits are clear and obvious. And it also shows that France is totally underestimating the value of Turkey as an ally.
The unique location of Turkey gives us the ability to be a part of Caucasian, Balkan, Mediterranean and a Middle Eastern country. The historical past of Turkey in these regions creates an understanding of the problematic in these regions. I am aware that these areas lay also in the influence zone of France. It was France that brokered a cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Russia in August 2008. But the same France is selling 4 potent amphibious ships to Russia this year. So if you were a Georgian, would you continue to trust to France? On the other hand Turkey tries to follows an even handed and balanced relation with these countries as much as it is possible. Thus a closer cooperation with Turkey would benefit France in her relations in these regions and smooth the bilateral relations between Turkey and France.
Inevitable time will come there the public in both countries will have to change their perceptions about each other. The sooner it is done the sooner the relations between the two countries become balanced and better. I do not know how effective the Turkish Season will be. But it is a good move in the right way.
How knows may be the Turkish month of the will help to improve the relations as well.
Cem Devrim Yaylali
Cem Devrim Yaylali was born in Paris and raised in Istanbul. His interest in naval issues and warships began by taking photos of warships visiting Istanbul as a teenage. His photos and articles have been published in various naval publications both Turkey and abroad. He is author of two websites, Unofficial Homepage of Turkish Navy and Bosphorus Naval News.
Three of his favorite turkish blogs: