Under the title “Who will take on the responsibility”, Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika newspaper (22.08.18), on its front page, reports that Tufan Erhurman, who the paper said “did not see who threw stones to our newspaper’s office,” now makes a call to everyone to shoulder the responsibility of the economic crisis. The paper plays on with the word “tas”, which means “stone” but also, can be used in the context of “shoulder responsibility”. The paper further writes: “In this country, stones are used to fracture a skull and not to assume responsibility”.
The paper criticizes the statement by “prime minister” Tufan Erhurman, who expects from the people self-sacrifice, but he cannot see that the economic crisis, which was created by a Turkey’s one-man rule, is not their crisis. The paper further writes that Erhurman, who has remained silent until today about the violation of human rights in their community, said that all sectors of the community should make self-sacrifices, adding that no one has the luxury to expect such sacrifices from someone else.
In a video message on “BRT” TV Monday night for the occasion of the Kurban Bayram, Erhurman gave details about the measures taken due to the currency crisis. He also emphasized that they would not tolerate those who exploit the economic crisis for personal gain and added that when the country is going through extraordinary conditions, they have to take extraordinary measures and act in order to rally society behind those measures.
Noting that all sections of society should sacrifice in light of these fair measures, Erhurman argued: “No one has the luxury to expect that this self-sacrifice will come from others, but the basic question of this period is' what can I do, where can I make sacrifices, and what can I renounce’”.
Erhurman said that the country has gone through extraordinary conditions and that the dollar exchange rate, which was 3.75 as of February 1, rose to 6.17 as of 18:00 today (Monday). Euro's from 4.66 to 7.06; Sterling from 5.34 to 7.89, TL has lost much in the last six months. He added that this had a major negative impact on public finances that generated an unexpected budget deficit of 504 million TL. He further said that an increase in the foreign exchange rate resulted in some increases in the state revenue but it was only 245 million TL. He described that the increase in the foreign exchange reflects on the prices in the market, that the life has become more expensive, the purchasing power of the consumer has fallen and that a severe negative atmosphere hangs over the economy in general.
Erhurman also announced that in a short while numerous tax reductions will take effect on electricity so relative price reductions will be achieved during certain hours. He added that one of the mechanisms that the government could use to prevent the price increase in the market was VAT, so that VAT rates for cleaning products, certain food products, white goods and restaurants will drop prices in order to shore up consumers' purchasing power. He also called on people not to buy products whose prices doubled.
He said that the second main problem is rental agreements are made in foreign currencies and as a result, foreign students coming to the occupied areas to study are being impacted. He stressed that it is necessary to fix the exchange rate on the rental agreements.
Erhurman explained that in the package of the economic measures announced by the government, trade unions made counter-proposals relating to overtime pay and that these measures will be examined. He noted that there is an additional cost of 140 million TL for overtime pay, adding that this is not a cost that can be underestimated.
Under the title “We have not a fire brigade truck to extinguish the fire”, Turkish Cypriot daily Yeni Bakis newspaper (22.08.18) reports that Hurrem Tulga, general coordinator of the Turkish Cypriot chamber of tradesmen and craftsmen, has said that only limited things could be done in the occupied area of Cyprus for overcoming the economic crisis due to the devaluation of the Turkish lira and added that there is no instrument in the “country” which could seriously interfere in the situation. In statements to the paper, Tolga noted that economic crises happen once every decade in the occupied area of the island and pointed out that the “country” has not the experience to interfere in these crises.
Tolga expressed the view that they have not prepared to face the crisis and that they should have developed their economy, increased the purchase power of the “people”, balanced the distribution of income and strengthened the “price stability fund”. He also said that extending the period of payment of the loans is not enough, because this does not turn a loan into payable.
Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot daily Diyalog newspaper (22.08.18) publishes statements made by former “prime ministers” and “ministers” of the breakaway regime, who warned that the economic crisis could further escalate within the forthcoming days. Former “prime minister”, Hakki Atun argued that they should not impose “taxes” on the imports from Turkey and discuss the problems with Ankara, in order to ease the consequences of the crisis. Former “minister”, Ozel Tahsin expressed the view that the trade unions should implement the decision of the “government” providing for reduction of overtime payment and act together with the “government” for overcoming the crisis. Former politician, Ergun Vehbi argued that the “government” acts like an “amateur” and added that money from Turkey should be secured.
Turkish Cypriot daily Havadis newspaper (22.08.18) reports that it has become almost impossible for the middle class in the Turkish Cypriot community to travel abroad during the Feast of Sacrifice, because of the devaluation of the Turkish lira and the successive price increases. Erkan Kilim, chairman of the Turkish Cypriot travel agents’ union, told the paper that the demand for travelling abroad has decreased. This influenced the vacations during the 9-day vacation for the Feast of Sacrifice, which according to travel agents, was the period during which they were selling the most packages for travelling abroad in the past. Noting that the “citizens” preferred to spend their vacation at home, the paper reports that even some existing reservations were cancelled.
Furthermore, according to Havadis, the streets in the occupied part of Nicosia were empty yesterday. A quiet day existed at the crossing points as well, because the “citizens” preferred to stay at home and did not cross over to the government-controlled area of the island, as they usually do during every holiday or feast.
Turkish Cypriot daily Kibris newspaper (22.08.18) reports that the Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci with his spouse Meral Akinci hosted yesterday a reception at the “presidential palace” to celebrate the Qurban Bayram (Islam’s holy Eid al-Adha or “Feast of Sacrifice”).
Among the participants of the reception was also the leader of Enfield Council, the 29 year-old Turkish Cypriot Nesil Caliskan, who was elected to the post with the Labour Group and became the first woman to hold the post as well as the youngest council leader in London.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (21.08.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkey-to-receive-russian-s-400-missiles-in-2019-136026) reported that Russia’s sophisticated S-400 anti-ballistic missile defense systems will be delivered to Turkey in 2019, state arms exporter Rosoboronexport has announced, amid the latter’s feud with NATO allies over the deployment of these multibillion non-NATO systems on its soil, which have raised concern over the security of allied weaponry and radar systems.
“Regarding the S-400 to Turkey, the contract is implemented within the agreed time limits. In 2019 we will start implementing the contract,” Alexander Mikheev, the CEO of the Rosoboronexport was quoted as saying by Russian Interfax agency on Aug 21.
Turkey and Russia have sealed an agreement on the procurement of the S-400 missiles and the former even made a down payment for the $2.5 billion cost. Turkish officials said earlier the systems would be deployed in July 2019.
Ankara’s decision to purchase a Russian sophisticated system has long been an issue between Turkey and its allies, particularly with the United States. Military experts are concerned that the deployment of S-400s would put the security of allied weapon systems, particularly F-35 aircrafts and radar facilities into danger.
U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed a Pentagon bill into law restricting the delivery of F-35 aircrafts to Turkey. The bill calls for the U.S. Secretary of Defence to submit a report within 90 days addressing the impacts of Turkey’s purchase of S-400s on U.S.-made weapon systems in Turkish territories.
The two allies had begun discussing alternative ways to resolve this dispute but talks have so far failed to bring about a resolution to this question. Ties between Turkey and the U.S. have increasingly worsened in the last month over the continued detention of U.S. evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson.
The U.S. has announced economic and political sanctions on Turkey, which has led to an unprecedented devaluation of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. dollar.
Meanwhile, the economic pressure on Turkey has pushed the government to trade in local currencies with Russia and other trade partners, including the purchase of the S-400s.
Rosoboronexport also said it would switch to using local currencies in deals with foreign trade partners, instead of using the dollar.
The Turkish defence industry is also seeking ways to use local currencies in deals with Russia and other partners. Talks between the two countries over how the financing of the S-400s will be provided are underway between related bodies.
Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily news (22.08.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/business-groups-urge-trump-erdogan-to-meet-as-dispute-hits-investments-136034) reports that the U.S.-Turkey business groups have warned that a political dispute between the NATO allies was affecting investor confidence and had forced some firms to suspend investment plans.
In interviews with Reuters, the heads of the American Turkish Council and Turkey-U.S. Business Council, which jointly represent 250 companies, called on President Donald Trump and President Tayyip Erdogan to meet to end the dispute over the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
“Only the two Presidents can put this relationship back on track,” said Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, chairman of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council. “We need to end this before it strains and permanently damages the relationship.”
The countries are in a deadlock over demands by Washington for the release of Brunson. Brunson has denied Turkey’s allegations that he was involved in a plot against Erdogan two years ago.
Howard Beasey, president and CEO of the American Turkish Council, said a $300 million merger and acquisition deal by a Turkish firm in the United States was suspended last week over political uncertainty.
A second Turkish company was reconsidering plans to produce a steel product in the United States after Washington recently imposed additional steel and aluminium tariffs on Turkish imports.
“That is all at risk right now, not because they don’t still see opportunity, but because they just don’t know where the political relationship is going to go,” Beasey said, referring to increased trade and investment between the two countries.
“The United States is using its economic strength in a dangerous way for political gain and we don’t agree with the use of sanctions for that reason. We can see direct impacts already,” he added.
Beasey said that the Turkish Lira had already been under pressure before the diplomatic rift and the United States was not to blame for its slide. He said, however, Washington’s decision to impose sanctions on two Turkish Ministers and the threat of more to come, had exacerbated the problem.
The sell-off in the lira has spread to other emerging market currencies and global stocks in recent weeks.
The lira has lost about 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar so far this year. It weakened on Aug. 21 after Trump, speaking in a Reuters interview, said he would “give Turkey no concessions” in return for the release of Brunson.
In a commentary in Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News (22.08.18-http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/opinion/serkan-demirtas/turkey-does-not-need-the-eu-really-136032) under the above title, columnist Serhat Demirtas writes the following:
“One of the immediate consequences of the ongoing row with the United States—which has an immense economic impact on the Turkish economy—was a 180-degree and pragmatic turn of Turkey towards the European Union and prominent European countries.
One can read dozens of opinions and columns as well interviews in pro-government media explaining why Turkey and the EU should cooperate against U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive economic and political oppression.
While appraising German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and senior EU officials over their support to Turkey in its feud with the Trump administration, they also herald upcoming meetings of senior Turkish officials with their European counterparts to discuss intensifying their economic partnership.
They often report about the importance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Berlin late September and Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak’s trips to France and Germany in the coming weeks.
These analysts, columnists and members of think tanks cite providing the Schengen visa waiver for the Turkish nationals and upgrading the Customs Union as areas on which Ankara and Brussels can agree, in a bid to enhance ongoing bilateral cooperation. Senior government officials are also of the same opinion (although they do not explain how all these will be granted without major amendments on Turkey’s downgraded democratic standards.)
However, it is the responsibility and duty of an objective journalist to catch attention on inconsistencies in making and running foreign policy because this inconsistency and narrow-mindedness, particularly on foreign policy, can cause enormous damage on national interests as we observe today.
Let’s first briefly recall the statements of prominent Turkish officials on ties with the EU in 2016 and 2017. “The European Union needs Turkey more than Turkey needs the European Union,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quoted as saying in April 2016, a month after Ankara and Brussels inked a comprehensive deal on Syrian refugees. This line had become Erdogan’s and therefore his government’s and pro-government’s media’s motto throughout 2016.
As relations have worsened in 2017, Erdogan’s line towards the EU has harshened. “We do not need the EU,” the President said a number of times as a strong-worded reaction against the EU, at the same time stressing it would not quit accession talks. That followed scores of analysis on how the EU entered into an era of collapse with statements from senior government officials that forecast “a needy EU to knock on the doors of Turkey.”
There is no need in telling that all these anti-EU campaigns were a part of pre-election strategy that helped Erdogan consolidate his conservative-nationalist grassroots for both the 2017 referendum and twin polls in 2018, at the expense of giving a huge damage on Turkey’s accession process as well as on its bilateral ties with European heavyweights.
Turkey’s human rights track record has worsened in the last two years and has often faced criticisms that it is no longer a liberal democracy, which has seriously impacted the status and nature of its ties with Brussels. Turkey’s accession process has been officially suspended with Council decisions that stipulate no chapters to be opened and no green light for an upgraded Customs Union either.
Let’s quote the EU Council’s decision taken in late June 2018 on Turkey: “The Council notes that Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union. Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.”
This means, the consent of 29 member countries is needed to revive accession talks and to work for upgrading the Customs Union.
On the contrary, what many foreign policy advisors and pro-government columnists argue is it will not be an easy task for a genuine re-start with the EU unless the government reverses its undemocratic downgrade.
Furthermore, recent warm messages from France and Germany towards Turkey should not be misunderstood. They simply say they do not want a de-stabilized Turkish economy because it can hit European stability. The support given to Turkey can only be comprehensive and genuine if the Turkish government is ready to upgrade its democracy along with its economy.
Those who run this country and those who advise them had better adopt a longer-term vision in international ties to avoid archaic undiplomatic trends such as ‘yesterday’s enemy, today’s friend’ or ‘today’s friend, tomorrow’s enemy’”.
TURKISH AFFAIRS SECTION