Erdogan: "Democracy in the Middle East, PluralIism in Europe: Turkish View"
ADDRESS BY H.E. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, PRIME MINISTER OF TURKEY HARVARD UNIVERSITY, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT 30 JANUARY 2003 Dear Rector Dr. Summers, Dear Dean Dr. Nye, Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, Harvard University continues to be a magnet for talent from around the world, thanks to its unique and well-deserved reputation. I am aware of, and appreciate, the indispensable role that this institution plays, not only in the field of education, but equally in the development of ideas which shape US domestic and global policy. Needless to say, I am not praising Harvard only because my own son happens to be studying here (!) In Washington D.C., I have held a series of very positive meetings with President Bush and his team. At our meetings, we have gone beyond reconfirming our friendship that is built on common vision and mutual interests. I am pleased that we have determined concrete steps that are geared to further develop the Turkish-US partnership. My visit to the United States has also given me the opportunity to emphasize the objective of establishing close and intensive links between the Turkish and American peoples, scholars and businessmen. Against this backdrop, it is a particular pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience at one of the most outstanding educational institutions in the United States. Therefore, I would like to thank, in the persons of the honorable Rector and Dean, the Harvard University and the Kennedy School of Government for their kind invitation. In this cradle of creative thought, I should like to share with you my views on a subject that carries particular global importance, namely democracy in the Middle East. * * * It is widely known that this subject is current and contentious, and that there are several different approaches and opinions that are out in the field. Several experts on the Middle East concur that the Middle East cannot be democratized. According to this view, democracy is a product of western culture, and it cannot be applied to the Middle East which has a different cultural, religious, sociological and historical background. Similarly, it is argued that the culture of Islam is incompatible with democracy. Basically, this conventional perspective of the Middle East thus contends that democracy in that region is neither possible nor even desirable. I do not see the need to engage in a detailed criticism of this viewpoint, dubbed as Middle East exceptionalism. However, I believe that all judgments that purport!absoluteness ought to be avoided. On the other hand, it is obvious that the Turkish example demonstrates the invalidity of the exceptionalism paradigm. But foremost, I do not subscribe to the view that Islamic culture and democracy cannot be reconciled. As a politician who cherishes religious conviction in his personal sphere, but regards politics as a domain belonging outside religion, I believe that this view is seriously flawed. I should like to repeat what I stated recently in the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia: It wonā€™t be the religion, but rather the world-view of some of its followers that shall be made current. Consequently, I would be inspired by the eloquent words of Thomas Jefferson, spoken in another context, to invite those in the West and in the Middle Eat who espouse that democratization is not possible in that region to "doubt a little of their own infallibility.ā€¯ In my view, the real issue in this era is as follows: Democratisation in the Middle East is an outcome that must be attained. Therefore, the question is not whether such democratization is possible, but instead how to meet the yearning of the masses in the Middle East for democracy; in other words, how to achieve democratization in the Middle East. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, When I say the Middle East must be democratized I am not expressing merely my own personal wish. There exists an unmistakable demand in the Middle East and in the wider Muslim world for democratization. The Muslim world and its subset the countries of the Middle East have been left behind in the marathon of political, economic and human development. For that, there is a tendency to blame others as the primary cause. Yet, it should be healthier to seek both the problem and the solution foremost within themselves. I trust that I can make this point in confidence as a politician who has assumed the government of a country which belongs both to the West and the Muslim world. The US and the European Union needs to help in the translation of the demand for democracy into a political will. However, this is as much a question of method, as it is of political will. I take the debate on the method of promoting democracy seriously. Because, I think the method would have an impact on the result. Therefore, I believe it could be useful to address the issue of the method in this presentation. I would like to indicate that throughout my political life, I have attributed great importance to the dialectic between means and ends. I am aware of the thesis that the United States has long since invested exclusively in stability and this has obviated democratic transformation in the Middle East. In fact, this is more an internal discussion of the American society; I will not hazard views on that thesis. Nevertheless, I find it hard to accept that instability would culminate in democratization and could in itself be a policy instrument. The theory that expects healthy democratization to emerge out of an environment of instability could not be substituted as a wholesome policy. I do not support!this theory which risks triggering further discontent, terror and other asymmetric threats, and whose capacity to attain the desired end is equally doubtful. * * * A confidence problem exists on the part of the people of the region who desire democratic rule in principle, but remain suspicious of both the fashion with which democratization is presented and the purposes of the democratic world. This lack of confidence is felt particularly strong by the masses that find themselves on the wrong side of globalization; think that world order and specifically the great powers are unjust; and suffer from perpetual poverty and violence. Therefore, the observation must be explicitly made: In the Middle East and in the Muslim world, suspicions linger concerning the objectives of the West and notably the US. These suspicions exist both at the level of states, and more importantly at the level of societies and individuals. This creates a resistance in the region and feeds radical elements and their abuse of the issue of religion. Such discontent that persists in our world should be taken seriously and not underestimated as transitory. Steps need to be considered and taken with care. I believe determined and consistent yet gradualistic processes will enhance the chances of success in democratization. The foundations of democratic transition should be laid in accordance with a sincere and committed strategy that is supported by various policy tools, and implemented wisely. And, the governments in the region must be made aware that this is necessary and thus be encouraged. If democracy is a culture, then it would take time and effort!for this culture of compromise to take root. Yet, it would be very much worth the effort. It is essential that policy instruments be developed that would firmly establish democratization on the basis of social consensus and enable transformation on stable grounds. A comprehensive strategy, broad based international cooperation and determined implementation are essential to that effect. * * * I regard the endorsement of both the objective and a method - which can differ from one country to another- of democratization by the parties in the region as a basic requisite of democratization in the Middle East. This in turn would hinge on developing the faith of the governments and societies in the possibility of progress towards democratization in security and confidence. In this context, social consensus, and institutions that embody this consensus, must be made effective in order for democratization not to be abused as a provisional instrument to establish an anti-democratic regime. The advanced levels which the democratic world has attained at the end of lengthy processes may have created the perception in the region that democracy is a distant concept; this perception can be addressed. Specific institutions and rules help construct a democracy. However, democracy cannot be defined as the existence of parliaments and elections alone. In fact, describing democracy solely in mechanistic terms can be misleading. What should be targeted is a concept of organic, and not just mechanic, democracy that preserves the rule of law, separation of powers, and that is participatory and pluralistic. In my own private terminology, I refer to this as "deep democracyā€¯. In other words, the bar should be maintained at the level of a pluralistic and participatory democracy. Even as we ought to accept that each country would progress with a different method and speed toward that goal, the standard for the expected end-state should not be lowered. The purpose cannot be creating self-styled democracies, but rather encouraging steps that are conducive to establishing democratic rule at universal standards. Obviously, this would be a formidable journey. One should remember that even Europe did not reach its present status overnight. Furthermore, democratisation is a process that is ever alive and there is always a "betterā€¯ irrespective of how developed any democracy might be. Even in the Western world, one cannot argue that the ideal has been achieved given the existence of issues like the integration, participation and representation of Muslim citizens, and occasional but lingering anti-Semitism. Paramount is the need to secure human rights. The form of rule should be such that the citizen does not have to fear the State, but gives it direction and confidently participates in its administration. Similarly, gender-equality, supremacy of law, political participation, civil society, and transparency are among the indispensable elements that are the imperatives of democratization. All these principles must be embraced and developed in order to support!democratization. In the Middle East democracy will be built step by step. Sincere, consistent and gradual processes will produce the desired result, and from every step that is successfully taken, the peoples of the Middle East, as well as everyone else including the Americans and Europeans will live to benefit. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, A fitting external security environment could also play an important role in promoting social consensus and institutionalization towards democratization. In a bid to encourage steps at the domestic stage towards democratization, an effort!has to be made to ameliorate external security conditions. The specific topics that are particularly relevant are widely known. It is obvious that putting the Arab-Israeli dispute on a resolution track would be an important element of overcoming the confidence problem in the region. As the Prime Minister of a nation that has lived in friendship with its Jewish citizens for centuries, and continues to maintain close friendship with both Israelis and the Palestinians, I should like to declare this explicitly: Turkey will not accept any notion that denies Israelā€™s right to exist. Everyone should unconditionally accept that Israel is an indispensable element of the Middle Eastern mosaic. Invariably, also a Palestinian state should live side by side with Israel within recognized and secure borders and the security and prosperity of the Palestinian people must be guaranteed. One cannot assent to the insolubility of the Arab-Israeli problem. Terror and violence must end and a solution to the problem must be found. The US is the only power that can make an impact to that effect. A lasting solution to this problem will have an exceptionally positive influence foremost on the peoples of Palestine and Israel, as well as on the region and the international community. This will benefit everyone. A US which will have made determined contribution to the resolution of this problem, would disembowel the arguments of those circles that poison human civilization by terror; the position of the US would be reinforced as a powerful actor to spread universal and contemporary values. Another critical issue is of course Iraq. In this country, there is the need to construct a democracy based on social consensus within a framework that preserves Iraqā€™s territorial integrity and national unity. It will be the success of the United States to attain that end-state; failure to do so, on the other hand, will be a defeat for all. Turkey sincerely desires the US to be successful in Iraq and provides multi-faceted support. Our policy vis-Ć -vis Iraq is firmly directed towards Iraqā€™s territorial integrity and national unity. I believe, only on this basis can a democracy, which is at peace with itself and with its neighbors, be achieved. Also in the time ahead, Turkey will continue to embrace all segments of the Iraqi population and maintain her principled stance. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Ladies and Gentlemen, In my presentation thus far I have expressed my view that there is an inescapable relationship between the external security environment and steps to be taken in domestic politics. And that, therefore, specific problems persisting in our agenda need to be set on the path of resolution. Similarly, one can also argue that resolution of outstanding problems would not be sufficient in themselves, and that the political culture of the region, too, needs to be drastically transformed through prompting and convincing policies. In this context, institution of a multi-lateral, comprehensive and systematic cooperation forum could support!efforts to encourage democratization, improve the external security and political environment, and promote the change of political culture. As we look to the Middle East in general, inviolability of borders, good neighborly relations, cooperation, transparency and free trade must not remain as wishful words but be put into effect. A regional security and cooperation regime that is conducive to promoting positive change in the Middle East has to be realized with contributions from the US and Europe. The plea is to launch a regionally based process that would provide a framework to address democratization and good governance together with economy and security. This should be a brand new initiative. Europe has managed to overcome its history with the help of similar endeavors. The Middle East, too, could overcome its present state as such. Just like the comprehensive Helsinki security and cooperation process playing a key role in transforming Europe from the hotbed of continental and world wars into a geography of peace, similarly a possible "Istanbul processā€¯ too could make a similar historic contribution in the Middle East. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, If the countries of the Middle East perceive the advice to democratize and the emphasis on regional processes as ill-intentioned foreign intervention, they would be mistaken. For the development of some of the most advanced democracies of today third countries and international institutions have made essential contributions. In fact, the democratic community is constantly monitoring democratic standards. One of the positive sides of globalization has been the protection accorded by the democratic community to the democratic ideal. As I consider Turkeyā€™s own democratization process I clearly see the benefits of our interaction with the outside world, notably with the US and the EU. Even if we take for granted Robert Kaganā€™s thesis that "Europeans come from Mars and Americans from Venusā€¯ we should nonetheless underscore that both are part of the same Solar system. Europe and the US are part of the same value system. This community of shared values stands tall not on the foundations of any religion. Itā€™s built on adherence to democratic values. The Turkish people have entered a historic transformation process with the founder of our Republic, Kemal Atatürk. In the course of this transformation process that has been premised on the principle that "sovereignty belongs to the peopleā€¯, a pluralist democracy has been established step by step since 1946. At the core of this process lies, of course, the determined disposition of the Turkish people towards modernity. This vocation facilitated Turkeyā€™s choice of taking part in the Free World led by the US after World War II. Once that choice had been made, our membership to NATO and the process of our accession to the EU have been elements of encouragement and confidence on our path to modern civilization and government. Not having experienced the particular democratization history of Western Europe which straddles centuries and innumerous wars, Turkey has found the opportunity to develop her democracy in a relatively smooth transition process thanks to NATO and the EU. As we stand today, Turkey has successfully traveled great distances in her efforts to achieve most advanced democratic standards. My Government has also taken very significant steps to realize this vocation of the Turkish people, and carried the Turkish democracy to highest norms through radical and historic reforms. We have instituted not a self-styled democracy, but a universal understanding of democracy. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, Turkey is ready to do its fair share to promote democratization in the Middle East and facilitate such a momentous transformation. Turkey can make valuable contributions to that effect. Foremost, Turkey is an established democracy at the intersection of Europe and the Middle East. In the development of her democracy Turkey has drawn positive strength from European and Euro-Atlantic processes. Currently, she is making historic strides to establish an environment of cooperation in her neighborhood. These steps are conducive to the birth of a new culture of positive relations in our region based on cooperation and interdependence. Turkey has a valuable partnership with the United States built on strong ties of alliance and friendship as well as harmony of a strategic world view. With the EU, more than forging cooperation, Turkey is on the path of integration. Decision by the EU to launch accession talks with Turkey will be the victory of the message that democratization is the starting point of the project of harmony of civilizations. Our region and the Muslim world is closely and carefully observing Turkeyā€™s membership process to the EU. Our membership to the EU is desired by all our neighbors. Both the Syrian President whom we have hosted recently and the new President of Georgia have indicated that thanks to Turkey they expect to become neighbors of Europe. It is necessary to see that if accession negotiations do not start despite the political will we have shown and all the far reaching reforms we have realized, the negative message would not be lost on others. Our democracy and modernity as well as the network of external relations I have outlined have been inevitably making Turkey an example, a model as well as a partner. As Turkey proceeds in the direction of membership to the EU, also the modern democratic values which she represents create greater attraction in the Middle East. This attraction will enable the Euro-Atlantic community to act as a catalyst for positive change in peace and interaction with the outside world. The web of cooperative relationships that Turkey has woven helps harmonize the strategic interests of the peoples of the region, the US and EU. * * * Dear Members of the Faculty and Students, Distinguished Guests, I should like to wrap up my presentation with a number of appeals: The first appeal goes to the Muslim world and the countries of the Middle East: Democracy is not particular to a specific group of societies. Democracy is universal, and a modern day requirement. The future generations will remember the leaders of today by the leadership they have demonstrated towards democratization. Each country should lay out its democratization perspective that suits local conditions and in so doing benefit from the advice of third countries and international organizations. Instead of blaming the outside world for the difficulties, they should put their house in order. Turkeyā€™s membership to the EU and partnership with the US will be sufficient proof that the real fault-line dividing civilizations runs through those who are democratic, at ease with the world and in step with globalization, as opposed to those who are fallen off modern governance. My second plea is to the Western world. The voice of the Muslim world must be listened to carefully with an open heart. Change must be supported with soft power and by setting a good example. Wrong steps should not be taken due to haste. The greatest strength of those societies that represent modern values is the attraction they create. The ultimate success of the war against terror too will depend on this. Given their level of development, the Western world is faced with a particular responsibility to establish a more just global order and seek harmony among civilizations. I recall the words of President George Herbert Walker Bush, the father of the President, when he said ā€¯The fact is, prosperity has a purpose...Prosperity with a purpose means taking your idealism and making it concrete by certain acts of goodness.ā€¯ Yes, according to me, power should also have a purpose. The purpose of power is to use this for the well-being of others. My third plea goes to the entire international community. Future belongs to the youth. My generation is entrusted with preparing it. The most lasting and the genuine investment is that which is made in the youth. Harvard University provides one of the best examples to that effect. Democracy in the Middle East will settle upon a solid educational strategy. The fight against terror which is our joint responsibility and task cannot be waged without an educational dimension. In the contemporary world, "justiceā€¯ is the value that is most sought after. As we continue our search for a more equitable distribution of the benefits of globalization, we should simultaneously strive to raise and prepare for leadership a generation that is reconciled with democracy and globalization. The youth that bids farewell to his family in the morning and then takes his/her and othersā€™ lives must be won back over by the modern world and civilization. They are also our children. Those who mislead these youths must suffer their rightful punishment, as they fall helpless to find minds to poison. For the sake of global peace and democratic transformation the doors of education and communication must be left wide open. Today, as I observe the brilliance of the youth in this unique educational institution, I cannot but see how accurate the founder of the Turkish Republic Kemal Atatürk was in emphasizing so strongly the education of youth. I extend my greetings to all of you with love and respect.
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