Turkish President Abdullah Gül has called on European leaders to stick to values such as democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, which originated from the continent of Europe, as he warned that populist tendencies among European leaders towards migration triggered the radicalization of immigrant societies.
Delivering a speech at the third global Policy Forum held in the central Russian city of Yaroslavl, Gül said the values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, although having originated in Europe, had a global impact.
“The Arab Spring that began with the demand of the people for democratic transformation is the latest manifestation of this impact. One expects a decline in discriminatory treatment as the world experiences these developments and the emergence of a common cultural understanding for mankind, but we unfortunately continue to witness the strengthening of extremist views that consider differences as a reason for conflict in various parts of the world,” Gül said at the forum, to which he had been invited as guest of honor. The forum was held under the auspices of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. This year's forum, titled “The modern state in the Age of social diversity,” focused on issues democracies face in the present-day social diversity such as the correlation of economic efficiency and social equality, the balance between innovation and tradition, maintaining global security and personal freedoms.
“The existence of these movements on the European continent, which presented the world with the notions of democracy and the modern state, is food for thought. Racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia that fester contemporaneously with the economic crisis affecting Europe give rise to serious concern. Parties that point at migrants as the source of problems such as security, crime, poverty and other social difficulties gain more votes.
The reaction by governments and main political parties that introduce stricter measures on migration in order to counter this fear by the people is also worrying. Rising intolerance and discrimination becomes a trigger for radicalization,” Gül said.
The July 22 terrorist attacks in which a right-wing extremist killed 77 people and rocked the foundations of Norway’s democratic society, which places high value on openness and civil rights, was one example used by Gül to better explain his point.
“This atrocious attack shows that terrorism and extremism are not confined to a specific religion or region and clearly shows that extreme right-wing ideologies that gain greater support in Europe constitute a serious security risk. I am sorry to say that whenever we have expressed our concerns with regard to right-leaning movements to our counterparts in the past, we observed that they turned a blind eye to this matter due to domestic political reasons. This is also because it requires a greater effort to treat and overcome recurring ailments such as racism and xenophobia in the West than to address the problems in the East, which are mostly due to underdevelopment,” Gül said.
Underlining the slowdown in the European economy due to an aging population, Gül argued that Europe needs some migration in order to revitalize the economy and provide for sustainable prosperity.
“It is therefore necessary to embrace differences and shun discrimination. Furthermore, inclusiveness is a sine qua non for a democratic society. These differences should not be considered reason for exclusion, disregard or cultural divisions, but should, on the contrary, be considered a sign of democratic wealth. Courage to question racist and xenophobic tendencies and to engage in self-criticism must be shown. The main goal must remain the elevation of the basic threshold for tolerance. In my opinion, this is the main requirement for becoming a modern state,” Gül stated.
Ahead of his one-day trip to Turkey’s Black Sea neighbor, Gül, in remarks delivered to Russian media, reiterated his country’s position with regard to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“The importance of the South Caucasus, as a region neighboring Turkey and Russia, is obvious. We are guided by the strategy aimed at the establishment of peace, stability and welfare in the region; we are also trying to achieve peace, security and cooperation here,” Gül was quoted as saying in remarks published on Thursday in the Moskovskiy Komsomolets newspaper.
“I suppose that the position of Turkey regarding this issue coincides with Russia’s standpoint. The progress to be achieved on this way will undoubtedly have [a] positive influence on Turkish-Armenian relations,” Gül also said.
Full text of Gül's speech is as follows:
My Dear Friend President Medvedev,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to address this distinguished forum organized for the third time this year. The Forum has significantly contributed to the global intellectual and political debate in such a short period of time.
First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the distinguished statesman President Medvedev who has played a leading role in the establishment of the Yaroslavl Forum around the theme of the “modern state” and express my thanks to all those involved in organizing this event.
I do believe that this forum is a very instrumental platform in discussing these important issues.
I also would like to take this opportunity to express my pleasure for being in the city of Yaroslavl which hosts important world cultural heritage with a history spanning a thousand years.
I am aware that the notion of the modern state and its interpretation in current affairs were discussed in the previous two Fora.
Therefore, I do not wish to focus on the descriptive and theoretical framework in great detail.
The task of explaining social phenomena subject to the “creative destruction” of globalization as described by Schumpeter has grown increasingly more challenging.
Therefore, it is rather difficult to examine these notions by using the analyses of Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Marx, Weber or Habermas although they shed light on one or the other aspect of the modern state and social diversity.
Globalization has presented the international community with many issues and dilemmas both from the point of view of the functions of the modern state as well as the elements of social coherence.
In this context;
Finding solutions for many dilemmas such as;
-“broadening individual rights and freedoms vs. security”,
-“national sovereignty vs. international legitimacy”,
-“freedom of enterprise vs. regulations”,
-“individual benefit vs. social cost”,
-“economic growth vs. fair distribution”,
-“national interest vs. global responsibility”,
-“economic development vs. sustainable environment”,
-“multiculturalism vs. social integration and cohesion”
plays a determining role in how the characteristics of the modern state is built.
As we all know, the state, in the past, functioned as an institution that valued its security and sustainability above all else and considered the society living in its borders as a tool that had to be organized in order to achieve these aims.
There are still some regimes that interpret state mechanisms in this way and consider the security of the state to be above all fundamental rights and freedoms of their people.
However, there has been a transition from the idea of the society and people serving the state; to the idea of the state serving its society and people. The era where fear and oppression were used to govern people has come to an end.
A new understanding which defines the sole purpose of the state as meeting the legitimate desires, demands and expectations of the people has emerged.
This is the underlying concept of the modern state. This understanding focuses on the human being in his individual and social capacity as the main pillar and aims to broaden freedoms as it tries to balance security against freedoms.
In the same way, acting in a truly democratic system that respects equality, plurality and participation is also one of the main characteristics and requirements for a modern state.
As such, the modern state is the best mechanism that mankind has established in order to render social justice, peace and prosperity sustainable while preventing injustice, violence, atrocities and the oppression of the weak by the strong.
Obviously, the modern state did not emerge overnight and through a single piece of legislation. The process began when the line between the rights and responsibilities of the society -- in other words, of those who are “represented”-- and the state -- of those who are “representing” -- were drawn.
In this context, the mechanism which we call the modern state is a dynamic phenomenon that is ever changing because globalization has the effect of continually changing the political, economic and social chemistry of societies.
Therefore, society demands that the state adapt itself to these changes. The main purpose of the state is to fulfill this expectation on the part of its society.
Our responsibility as politicians and statesmen today is to remove barriers before this process and help it move more quickly.
In the final analysis, the modern state in my opinion is:
-“a democratic state” that is based on the principle of the rule of law.
-“a freedom state” that provides security and stability without sacrificing fundamental human rights and freedoms.
-“a social state” that achieves economic growth without neglecting fair distribution.
-“a virtuous state” which is cognizant of its responsibility to mankind even as it pursues its national interests.
-“a responsible state” that is aware of its accountability to future generations in all areas including the environment in the context of its economic development policies.
-“a regulatory state” which minimizes social costs while paving the way for greater individual entrepreneurship.
-a state that not only “holds to account”, but is also “held accountable”.
-“a compassionate and tolerant state” which embraces all its people and considers differences as a source of richness.
One cannot speak of a single specific model that would be applicable to all countries. What I have stated above constitutes, in my opinion, the basic framework of what needs to be taken as a basis in different countries and structures to realize a modern state.
Increasing the number of states that respect these points of reference will constitute an assurance for sustainable international peace.
Having expressed my views about the modern state in this way, allow me now to share with you my thoughts about social diversity and multiculturalism.
If we were to coin a term to describe the age we live in, social diversity would be one of the aspects which would come to mind.
This is a process intertwined with increased social mobility and greater migration movements due to various reasons in a globalized world. The resulting cultural, religious and ethnic differences in societies may be a source of new divisions and tensions.
Matters become more complicated because such differences are considered to be the root causes of difficulties experienced in societies which are especially vulnerable socio-economically.
One of the main issues facing the modern state today is to build the capacity to manage this diversity and plurality.
In this framework, it is important that the state provides equal constitutional rights and assurances to all of its citizens without discriminating them based on language, religion and race; and establishes a fair system of income distribution and equal opportunity.
It is of utmost importance that the guiding and supervising role of the state is used to prevent exploitation and inequality while ensuring equal participation of all parts of society in the system.
In the same way, accepting cultural, religious and ethnic differences as a richness rather than a weakness for society should also be one of the characteristics of the modern state.
In this context, it is important to adopt an inclusive political language that embraces these differences; use the means of the state to achieve this aim; and ensure equality before the law for individuals.
In addition, leaders who can manifest the necessary will and vision to guide state mechanisms towards this end is instrumental in achieving this goal.
Turkey as the cradle of civilizations and home to multi-religious, multiethnic and multicultural empires for centuries embodies vast experience in social diversity.
In fact, the effort for modernization based on plurality and democracy that began 200 years ago for the Turkish people has gained greater momentum and impact in the last 10 years through deep-rooted reforms in the political and economic area.
The main purpose of these reforms has been to raise the living standards of our people and to promote social cohesion.
Through the work that has been done, the channels for public dialogue between the “state which represents” and the “people who are represented” were broadened and the state provided for security by ensuring peace and prosperity for its people.
First of all, we were able to cover great distance in overcoming income disparity by controlling chronic inflation and ending spiraling interest rates through the reforms we implemented in the aftermath of the economic crisis in the beginning of the 2000s. We ensured that all parts of society benefited from economic growth.
We also created greater efficiency in the market economy. The economy was built to withstand strong internal and external shocks.
In this process, we removed barriers to free enterprise and investments and established strong rules to ensure a sound and transparent functioning of the market. As a result, Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that was affected at a minimum by the 2008 global economic crisis which had a very strong impact on many developed countries.
In the political field, we strengthened the institutions that ensure democracy, transparency, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities through the reforms we carried out. We covered great distance in terms of complying with pluralistic democratic norms.
The simultaneous nature of these reforms in the political and economic area had a multiplier effect on each other.
In this framework, our democracy grew stronger through political and legal reforms that broadened fundamental rights and freedoms. This led to greater confidence in Turkey and growing investments created a positive impact on our economy. Consequently, Turkey, today, is the 16th largest economy in the world and the 6th largest economy in Europe.
On the other hand, Turkey takes more confident steps in democratization and towards becoming a modern state as a result of the economic reforms that have led to greater financial means while taking on important regional and global responsibilities. In this framework, our country has emerged as a significant donor country by providing development aid amounting to almost 2 billion dollars annually in the name of humanity without expecting anything in return.
We are aware of the fact that there are still steps we need to take in order to broaden the scope of our democracy, raise its standards to a competent and mature level and increase democratic participation.
In fact, result of the elections in June 12 is a manifestation of the social aspiration on all parts of society for a new constitution based on freedoms that will carry Turkey into next centuries.
Experience has shown that the role and function of the state is important to the extent it responds to the needs and expectations of the people.
In parallel with Turkey’s rising political and economic power and democratic standards, its ability to pursue a more active and effective foreign policy in the international arena has grown.
We believe that developments in human rights and democracy will play an important role in ensuring peace, development and social justice and base our policies on this understanding.
We believe that the movements for change and democratic transformation that began at the beginning of this year in North Africa and spread rapidly to other countries in the Middle East are similar to the revolutions in 1848 and 1989.
We are of the opinion that the region is on the brink of a historic turning point towards transitioning to a democratic modern state model.
With this understanding, Turkey supports the legitimate demands of the people for reform in the region and works to ensure that this historic transformation which will resonate on a global scale is translated into peace, stability, order and prosperity.
A brighter future for our world lies in the adoption of democracy as the political project of modern civilization in more countries.
No doubt, one cannot speak of a single type of democracy that fits all countries. However, respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as the rule of law are the main principles in order to become a modern state that embraces democracy and social diversity.
We must remember that strong societies built on these principles will be the safeguard for compassionate and effective modern states; and effective modern states, in turn, will be the safeguard for a more prosperous global order.
Democracy constitutes the strongest force vector in enabling a country more powerful. The sustainability and international reputation of a state are ensured when that state rises on the power of its people.
The values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights that I speak of have originated in Europe, but had a global impact. The Arab Spring that began with the demand of the people for democratic transformation is the latest manifestation of this impact.
One expects a decline in discriminatory treatment as the world experiences these developments and the emergence of a common cultural understanding for mankind, but we unfortunately continue to witness the strengthening of extremist views that consider differences as a reason for conflict in various parts of the world.
The existence of these movements in the European continent which presented the world with the notions of democracy and the modern state is food for thought. Racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia that fester contemporaneously with the economic crisis affecting Europe give rise to serious concern.
Parties that point at migrants as the source of problems such as security, crime, poverty and other social difficulties gain more votes.
The reaction by governments and main political parties that introduce stricter measures on migration in order to counter this fear by the people is also worrying. Rising intolerance and discrimination becomes a trigger for radicalization.
The emerging divide between religious, racial and cultural communities has begun to damage the social fabric of our societies. If this tendency cannot be checked, our world will become a much more dangerous place to live.
In this context, there is merit in carefully considering the attack by a Norwegian citizen targeting Norwegian democracy which gets its strength from multiculturalism.
This atrocious attack shows that terrorism and extremism are not confined to a specific religion or geography and clearly shows that extreme right wing ideologies that gain greater support in Europe constitute a serious security risk.
I am sorry to say that whenever we have expressed our concerns with regard to right-leaning movements to our counterparts in the past, we observed that they turned a blind eye to this matter due to domestic political reasons. This is also because it requires greater effort to treat and overcome recurring ailments such as racism and xenophobia in the West than address the problems in the East which are mostly due to underdevelopment.
On the other hand, the economy in Europe continues to slow down as a result of an aging population. As experts point out, Europe needs some migration in order to revitalize the economy and provide for sustainable prosperity.
In other words, Europe will need to house greater diversity in the future.
Therefore, it is necessary to embrace differences and shun discrimination. Furthermore, inclusiveness is a sine qua non for a democratic society. These differences should not be considered reason for exclusion, disregard or cultural divisions, but should, on the contrary, be considered a sign of democratic wealth.
Courage to question racist and xenophobic tendencies and to engage in self criticism must be shown. The main goal must remain to be the elevation of the basic threshold for tolerance higher. In my opinion, this is the main requirement for becoming a modern state.
I believe that these developments also point out to the need to develop a new diplomatic and political language taking into consideration multiculturalism and world peace.
This is because the current language of politics and diplomacy fails to respond to the developments, problems and dilemmas of our age and, at times, even serves to fuel conflict.
This language must be replaced with a new one that is constructive, unifying, dynamic and tolerant.
I have been pointing out to the need for “a new language of diplomacy and politics” for some time in Turkey and also in international platforms, most recently in my address to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in January 2011. As I expressed in my address at the Council of Europe, I am of the opinion that the character of this diplomatic and political language will instrumental in defining the outcome.
The language that we use may be constructive or destructive. As the famous Turkish poet Yunus Emre says; “there is word that puts an end to war just as there is word that puts an end to human life”.
Political actors, through the language they use, may either choose to help build a common understanding or encourage divisions.
Therefore, it is important to adopt language that defends human rights and respect for diversity in a convincing manner in order to eliminate fears.
Today, many countries due to well-known historical and natural reasons embody different elements in their society in terms of religion, language, ethnic origin.
As a result, social diversity and multiculturalism are inherent aspects of these countries and will remain so. Despite this reality, there are leaders who present social diversity and multiculturalism as undesirable policies that must be abandoned which, in itself, points out to a dangerous process.
Given this reality, it would be against the tide of history and anachronistic to imagine a society based on a single culture, ethnicity and religion.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to once again invite all leaders to use language that promotes social cohesion.
I also would like to remind you that there are numerous prominent examples in history of countries where social and cultural diversity existed in the context of national unity and cohesion.
On the other hand, countries that tried to eliminate social and cultural diversity or attempted to suppress it due to various fears first lost their human richness and eventually witnessed the erosion of their economic and political power.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to deliver this address in Russia which constitutes a good example of social diversity where different cultures have co-existed peacefully through its long standing traditions.
The sincere efforts and leadership shown by my dear friend President Medvedev in this regard both in Russia and in the international arena encourages us and gives us hope for the future.
With thousands of years of state tradition and the experience and heritage of great empires, Turkey and the Russian Federation are two countries that are well-placed to make a meaningful contribution to shaping the global order based on these parameters.
Every step that our countries which constitute the backbone of Eurasia take in way of achieving social diversity and a modern state shall bring us closer to the ideal of a more secure, peaceful and prosperous world.