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November 01, 2011, Tuesday

A seminar on ‘opportunities and threats in the region’

The Turkish Textile Employers’ Association (TÜTSİS) recently organized an international seminar on threats and opportunities in the region. The seminar brought together many Turkish and foreign experts who talked about important political and economic issues.

On the first day of the seminar, discussions mainly centered on the political aspects of regional threats and opportunities, while on the second day, the economic aspects were emphasized. The speakers who discussed political matters preferred to focus on the impacts of global developments in Turkey’s region. However, it was also clear that when they were mentioning Turkey’s region, they were referring, for the most part, to the Middle East. On the other hand, it was interesting to note that in the economic field, everyone was implicitly aware that it was impossible to talk about specific regions, as the global economy is by definition about the entire globe.

When we discuss political and social events, we often have the habit of stressing “regions”; however, nothing is so regional when one talks about economic problems or opportunities. That’s why one of the most important contributions of this seminar was to remind everyone how the real global mechanisms function. The main paradox of our time is the following: Economic life is globalized and economic interdependences are important, but social and political relations are not that globalized yet. When it comes to economy, one can compare trade volumes, growth rates and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, helping to better understand where each society or sector stands in the global configuration. In other words, it’s easier to understand what the global economy’s problems and failures are. However, one needs political decisions to resolve these problems and that is the trickier part.

Some of those who have to make necessary decisions are the states, but there are also non-state actors involved, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU. However, when people try to describe the global political problems, they often only take the states into consideration.

The seminar also allowed one to witness once again how in such gatherings, which are not purely academic but have academic references, some of the speakers’ sole purpose is to promote a particular political position. As participants of such seminars may have also seen in other meetings recently, foreign speakers used laudatory language about Turkey. We are of course proud to hear our country being praised, as in the past we would only hear criticism. It feels good to observe that the overall international perception of Turkey is quite positive nowadays.

However, sometimes these praises lose their credibility and even provoke doubts. Participants at the seminar grew suspicious as foreign speakers seemed to deliberately exaggerate Turkey’s real power and capacity. It’s doubtless that in a very large geography Turkey has become a critical actor. However, some speakers, especially from the US, talked about Turkey as if it was a global power.

In a globalized structure, every country must be analyzed according to its place in the global system, nothing is wrong there. However, if one starts comparing Turkey to Russia or China, there is a problem, because when it comes to economic assessments, Turkey figures next to Poland, Hungary or Brazil. One has to ask why these economic realities are not mentioned when talking about political balances. Participants at this and other similar seminars have noticed that some foreign speakers are eager to say what Turks like to hear. However, when they keep saying “you are wonderful, so powerful and enormously efficient,” one has to wonder what the real purpose of these praises is. Maybe they simply want Turkey to use its “power” somewhere they have in mind.

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