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Hürriyet - June 19, 2011

by Gila Benmayor

The Paris Bosphorus Institute set up in the French capital two years ago by a Turkish association to improve relations between the two countries has been a success in the short time it has been operating.

Founded by the Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, the institute, which accommodates significant scientists, politicians and academics in its Science Council, has expanded its radius of activity with the newly formed “Friendship Group.”

I participated in the first meeting of the Bosphorus Institute Friendship Group in Paris at the beginning of the week.

There was much attention paid to the panel, where election results in Turkey were evaluated by France’s famous historian-writer Alexander Adler, economist Seyfettin Gürsel from Bahçeşehir University and Soli Özel from Kadir Has University.

Just to give an example, I was sharing my table with French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Middle East Special Representative Valerie Hoffenberg. On the table right next to me were sitting the former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard and former Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou, both of them members of the Science Council.

According to the Head of the Bosphorus Institute, and at the same time international coordinator of TÜSİAD, Bahadır Kaleağası, Ph. D., interest toward the works of the institute is increasing every day. He added that Germany also wants to be included in the studies of the Bosphorus Institute.

During the Paris meeting, it was possible to see the signs of this increased interest in the questions participants were asking the panelists.

Sarkozy and the reality of Turkey

As historian Adler said in his speech, France is just recently awakening at the economic power of Turkey. According to Adler, who drew parallelism between Brazil and Turkey and Istanbul and Shanghai, the efforts of France and Germany to obstruct Ankara’s membership to the European Union are futile.

Sooner or later Sarkozy has to open his eyes to the reality of Turkey.

One of the issues participants were most curious about was whether or not Turkey would become a model in the Arab Spring.

I think the increased attention on the Paris Bosphorus Institute that TÜSİAD has so successfully operated is exactly because of the Arab Spring.

Because Europe is completely undecided on the subject of what attitude to take toward the Arab Spring.

More than undecided, it is unable to act.

The call of the European intellectuals led by Deputy Speaker of Italian Senate Emma Bonino, a member of the Wise Men Group lobbying for Turkey’s EU membership, to Brussels is worth noting.

Pessimist scenario in the Arab Spring

According to Bonino and friends’ finding, the facts that tourism revenues have fallen, foreign investments have escaped and the threat of inflation in those countries that staged the Arab Spring – Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon – may drown the “Arab Spring” without it being able to mature.

When you add to this pessimist economic picture the incredible population rise, unemployment, the gap in welfare levels and corruption, it seems inevitable that the Arab Spring reaches dangerous dimensions.

In their call to the EU, Bonino and friends reminded of the fact that the “destiny” of the EU depends on the “Arab World” in terms of immigration, energy and security. They claim Europe is able to turn this pessimist scenario the other way around.

Well, what can Europe do?

Among short-term suggestions are supporting Egypt and Tunisia in the field of tourism, strengthening the SMEs in these countries with foreign investments and embracing those escaping Libya.

The most important thing the EU has to do to be able to apply the above suggestions, is to develop a separate policy and a separate strategy for each of the Arab Spring countries. I guess, if the EU lends an ear to this wise call of Bonino and friends, it has to get Turkey on board.

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