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Turkish Press Review, 03-12-29
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From: Turkish Directorate General of Press and Information <http://www.byegm.gov.tr><LINK href="http://www.byegm.gov.tr_yayinlarimiz_chr_pics_css/tpr.css" rel=STYLESHEET type=text/css> e-mail : email@example.com <caption> <_caption> Summary of the political and economic news in the Turkish press this morning
29.12.2003FROM THE COLUMNS...FROM THE COLUMNS...FROM THE COLUMNS
 ERDOGAN: “TURKEY’S REGIME ISN’T UNDER DISCUSSION”Speaking to a meeting of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial chairmen in Ankara yesterday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that there was no discussion about Turkey’s regime for any reason. Stressing that certain circles that lacked grounds to criticize the government were resorting to “regime discussions,” Erdogan said, “Turkey is satisfied with its regime designated by the Constitution. All institutions in Turkey, the government and Parliament in particular, are determined to carry on this regime forever.” He stated that democracy wasn’t only a manner of administration, but a way of life. In the runup to next spring’s local elections, Erdogan also urged party leaders to work hard to promote the AKP and its candidates. /Turkiye/
 DENKTAS TO ASSIGN TASK OF ESTABLISHING TRNC GOVERNMENTWork to establish a new government in the Northern Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is ongoing, with President Rauf Denktas expected today to assign a party leader for that task. The Republican Turkish Party (CTP) is seeking this duty, as it received more votes than any other party in the Dec. 14 elections. At the same time, two other parties, the Peace and Democracy Movement (BDH) and the Democratic Party (DP), are also suggesting that the CTP get the assignment in line with tradition. /Turkiye/
 CABINET TO DISCUSS FORMATION OF NEW TRNC GOVERNMENTThe Cabinet is set to convene today to discuss the formation of a new Turkish Cypriot government following general elections earlier this month in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). In related news, Foreign Ministry officials are set to brief Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tomorrow on the ministry’s plans to help reach a resolution on the island. This week a summit on Cyprus is also set to be held as chaired by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. The summit will seek to firm up Ankara’s stance on the formation of a new TRNC government. /Cumhuriyet/
 GUL: “ANNAN’S CYPRUS PLAN SHOULD BE DISCUSSED”We must discuss the United Nations plan for Cyprus, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group meeting yesterday. Emphasizing that there is no other choice besides the plan for the island proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Gul said, “There’s no other choice because after next May, there will be another member [Greek Cyprus] which will have a say in the European Union. This would be against the interests of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus [TRNC].” Gul added that the Foreign Ministry had prepared an extensive report on the issue for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. /Hurriyet/
 BABACAN: “FOR THE SOCIAL GOOD, WE’RE CONSIDERING BOOSTING THE MINIMUM WAGE ABOVE INFLATION”Appearing on television yesterday, State Minister for the Economy Ali Babacan said that Turkey’s falling debt stock would help to reduce interest rates, which in turn would also boost the nation’s growth. “Last year’s primary surplus target was 6.5%, but we hit 3.9%,” said Babacan. “This was due to a lack of budgetary discipline and the 2002 elections.” One of the most important events of the past year was the war in Iraq, added Babacan. Touching on local elections, set for next spring, Babacan said that the government wasn’t implementing populist policies, but social welfare policies, adding that it was considering raising the minimum wage more than inflation. /Milliyet/
 SEZER, ERDOGAN, GUL CONDEMN BOMB ATTACK AGAINST EU COMMISSION HEAD PRODIPresident Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul yesterday issued separate messages condemning a weekend bomb attack on European Union Commission President Romano Prodi. The parcel bomb left Prodi unhurt. /Cumhuriyet/
 TURKISH AID RUSHED FOR IRAN EARTHQUAKE RELIEFTurkish officials are continuing their efforts to aid Iran after a devastating 6.3 earthquake hit the southeastern city of Bam on Friday, destroying most of its houses and killing tens of thousands of people. Turkey has sent six trucks carrying medical supplies, generators, blankets and body bags for the deceased as well as five cargo planes carrying search and rescue and first aid personnel, four rescue vehicles, food and medicine. In related news, Public Works and Housing Minister Zeki Ergezen yesterday received Iranian Ambassador Firuzi Devletabadi. Expressing the condolences and sympathy of the Turkish government and its people over the recent disaster, Ergezen said that in addition to the aid already sent, Turkey would soon dispatch additional help to speed the healing of the country’s wounds. He stressed that some 800 containers and 700 prefabricated houses previously used to help survivors of Turkey’s 1999 Marmara earthquake were ready to be dispatched. In addition, 10 geologists and five civil engineers might be sent to the region to help find a suitable site to erect the houses. For his part, Devletabadi expressed his country’s gratitude for Turkey’s concern over the terrible disaster. /Turkiye/
 NEW MINIMUM WAGE TO BE ANNOUNCED TOMORROWThe commission to set a new minimum wage is expected to reach a figure tomorrow and to have it announced by Labor and Social Security Minister Murat Basesgioglu. The new amount will be effective as of this Thursday, Jan. 1, 2004. /Hurriyet/
 TRADE UNDERSECRETARIAT PREPARES SUSTAINABLE GROWTH PLANThe Foreign Trade Undersecretariat has prepared an export strategy plan for next year through 2006. The plan predicts that Turkey’s exports will increase by 60% to reach an annual figure of $75 billion by the end of 2006. The plan further aims to form an export structure to achieve sustainable growth and overcome problems caused by the Customs Union. /Aksam/
 FROM THE COLUMNS...FROM THE COLUMNS...FROM THE COLUMNS
 HISTORICAL RESPONSIBILITY BY FIKRET BILA (MILLIYET)Columnist Fikret Bila writes on the Iraq and Cyprus issues. A summary of his column is as follows:
“Next year is expected to bring with it new turning points for our country. In the wake of the US invasion of Iraq, this year the world has witnessed historic developments which are very likely to continue to dominate world politics in 2004.
The most important political consequence for Turkey of the US occupation is the Iraqi Kurdish groups’ prospect of establishing an independent state of their own. For the time being, the Kurds seem to working to form a federal state, one which is very likely to seek independence in the future. It’s no exaggeration to say that protecting Iraq’s territorial integrity will be very difficult under the current circumstances.
These developments will continue to influence Turkish politics in 2004. In addition, such developments might profoundly disrupt our political integrity. Although the powers that be in Ankara don’t want to face this fact, the latest developments in our region are shaking the very foundations of our republic. The latest EU summit underlined our ‘southeastern problem.’ What does Brussels mean by this? How does the EU think this problem should be resolved? Our government should first work to answer these questions and then tell us its conclusions.
What about the Cyprus issue? What would happen if Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots announced they wanted to negotiate over the UN plan for the island known as the Annan plan? Will the Greek Cypriot side agree to discuss it even if the Turkish side proposes certain fundamental changes? Why would Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopulos be willing to sign? What will be the consequences if Ankara pressures the Turkish Cypriots to say yes to the Annan plan? Who will guarantee for us that Brussels will set a date for the beginning of our membership talks at the EU summit to be held next December? Our government must again first answer these questions and then share its conclusions.
These questions can’t be answered by criticizing circles which have voiced their concerns over Annan’s plan. They can only be addressed by speaking with foreign circles, not domestic ones.
If after accepting all the wishes of the EU and the Greek Cypriots all we receive next December is another slew of advice, the result can only be an ever-widening political chasm between Ankara and Brussels. Under such circumstances, our government should be ready to undertake a great historical responsibility.”
 STUMBLING ON CYPRUS BY YILMAZ OZTUNA (TURKIYE)Columnist Yilmaz Oztuna comments on Turkey’s stance on the Cyprus issue. A summary of his column is as follows:
“The ambiguity surrounding the Cyprus issue has Turkey all knotted up. We shouldn’t reject Kofi Annan’s plan due to its philosophy, but rather should start to discuss it. Of course we’ll argue for provisions which should be changed. However, now we don’t have as much hope now as we had last year. We lost that chance with wrongheaded policies. We’ll want reasonable changes. Of course we could reject the plan wholesale, but that would be counterproductive. We haven’t forget the embargos [which followed the 1974 Cyprus Peace Operation] and have no desire to experience them again. The United Nations, the European Union and the US are all waiting for a solution from us. Not a single country considers us to be in the right. Our diplomacy shouldn’t have been this clumsy because at the root of the issue we’re correct. However, we have little maneuvering room now.
What would happen if we don’t get a date for EU membership negotiations even if we make concessions on Cyprus? It’s a small but real possibility. The EU might ignore the issue once more due to the strong influence of those opposing Turkey and our lateness in sufficiently implementing the Copenhagen criteria. However, then it would have to take the consequences, because the risk is mutual. Then Turkey’s reaction might threaten the EU’s larger interests.
Even in such a crisis, as a nation we would benefit from accepting Europe’s standards. Possibly there would be a backwards-looking policy in Ankara. Those who support the status quo are looking forward to it, and are warning of difficulties on the Cyprus issue, and they might even want us to forsake reforms on the path to EU membership, painting them as useless concessions. However, then we would end up in a worse situation both economically and democratically. Wasting time on the Cyprus issue is great risk. If Brussels treats us cruelly, we could postpone implementing Annan’s plan.”
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