June 24, 2014

Abant Platform: An arena of fruitful debate

Begüm Burak

The 33rd Abant Platform, which was held in Akçakoca, ended yesterday. With the attendance of 120 distinguished participants, important conclusions concerning the current political and socioeconomic situation in Turkey were drawn. The participants, who were from the academic and journalistic professions, agreed that Turkey is currently witnessing a deviation in its path towards full democracy and the rule of law.

In the first session, titled "Turkey's Position in the Global System," Yaşar Yakış, a former minister of foreign affairs and a member of the founding committee of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), made noteworthy evaluations of the recent developments in the Middle East and their impact on Turkish foreign policy. During this session, an important number of participants criticized the government's policy of "zero problems with the neighbors." One of the participants, Ceyda Karan, stated her deep concerns about Turkish foreign policy, which, according to Karan, takes its inspiration from Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's book "Stratejik Derinlik" ("Strategic Depth"). Joost Lagendijk, a speaker in the first session, stated that Turkey is becoming a weak actor in the eyes of the European Union countries in both its domestic and foreign policy approaches.

In the second session, the issue of civil society and political participation was debated. Theoretical approaches to civil society were made by academics, and the lack of a healthy relationship between the state and non-state units was a view almost all the participants agreed on.

The sessions held on Saturday had the themes of "democratic and environment-sensitive development" and "debates on the political system and separation of powers." Ahmet Atıl Aşıcı from İstanbul Technical University (İTÜ) presented a comprehensive analysis of the uneven development and economic growth in Turkey. The Soma mining disaster was recalled once again and the ways of putting an end to such disasters were discussed.

The last session on Saturday was moderated by Levent Köker, with the participation of distinguished professors such as Ersin Kalaycıoğlu and Ergun Özbudun. Özbudun and Kalaycıoğlu said the notion of separation of powers is under serious threat in contemporary Turkey. In addition to that, the lack of an independent and free judiciary was treated as one of the main problems by the speakers.

The fifth session covered the issue of the problem of democratic representation in Turkey. The pluralism vs. majoritarianism debate was one of the most hotly debated topics of the session.

The Abant Platform's final declaration has articles that are all vital for Turkey's democracy and the rule of law. It can be said that the Abant Platform has once again contributed to a fruitful debate about a better Turkey, in which every single citizen, no matter how they think or what they look like, can live happily.

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 June 2014, Monday