U.S. Department of State Background Note
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Modern Turkey encompasses bustling cosmopolitan centers, pastoral farming villages, barren wastelands, peaceful Aegean coastlines, and steep mountain regions. More than half of Turkey's population lives in urban areas that juxtapose Western lifestyles with more traditional ways of life.
The Turkish state has been officially secular since 1924. Approximately 99% of the population is Muslim. Most Turkish Muslims follow the Sunni traditions of Islam, although a significant number follow Alevi and Shiite traditions. Questions regarding role of religion in society and government, the role of linguistic and ethnic identity, and the public's expectation to live in security dominate public discourse. Turkish citizens who assert a Kurdish identity constitute an ethnic and linguistic group that is estimated at up to 12 million in number.
Mustafa Kemal, celebrated by the Turkish State as a Turkish World War I hero and later known as "Ataturk" or "father of the Turks," led the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 after the collapse of the 600-year-old Ottoman Empire and a three-year war of independence. The empire, which at its peak controlled vast stretches of northern Africa, southeastern Europe, and western Asia, had failed to keep pace with European social and technological developments. The rise of national consciousness impelled several national groups within the Empire to seek independence as nation-states, leading to the empire's fragmentation. This process culminated in the disastrous Ottoman participation in World War I as a German ally. Defeated, shorn of much of its former territory, and partly occupied by forces of the victorious European states, the Ottoman structure was repudiated by Turkish nationalists brought together under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal. The nationalists expelled invading Greek, Russian, French and Italian forces from Anatolia in a bitter war. After the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey the temporal and religious ruling institutions of the old empire (the sultanate and caliphate) were abolished.
The leaders of the new republic concentrated on consolidating their power and modernizing and Westernizing what had been the empire's core--Asian Anatolia and a part of European Thrace. Social, political, linguistic, and economic reforms and attitudes decreed by Ataturk from 1924-1934 continue to be referred to as the ideological base of modern Turkey. In the post-Ataturk era, and especially after the military coup of 1960, this ideology came to be known as "Kemalism" and his reforms began to be referred to as "revolutions." Kemalism comprises a Turkish form of secularism, strong nationalism, statism, and to a degree a western orientation. The continued validity and applicability of Kemalism are the subject of lively debate in Turkey's political life. The current ruling AK Party comes from a tradition that challenges many of the Kemalist precepts and is driven in its reform efforts by a desire to achieve EU accession.
Turkey entered World War II on the Allied side until shortly before the war ended, becoming a charter member of the United Nations. Difficulties faced by Greece after World War II in quelling a communist rebellion and demands by the Soviet Union for military bases in the Turkish Straits prompted the United States to declare the Truman Doctrine in 1947. The doctrine enunciated American intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece and resulted in large scale U.S. military and economic aid under the Marshall Plan. After participating with United Nations forces in the Korean conflict, Turkey in 1952 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey is currently a European Union candidate.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
The 1982 Constitution, drafted by the military in the wake of a 1980 military coup, proclaims Turkey's system of government as democratic, secular, and parliamentary. The presidency's powers are not precisely defined in practice, and the president's influence depends on his personality and political weight. The president and the Council of Ministers led by the prime minister share executive powers. The president, who has broad powers of appointment and supervision, is chosen by Parliament for a term of 7 years and cannot be reelected. A constitutional amendment recommending the direct election by the people of the president to a 5-year term, with the possibility of serving a second 5-year term, may be submitted to a popular referendum in 2007. The prime minister administers the government. The prime minister and the Council of Ministers are responsible to Parliament.
The 550-member Parliament carries out legislative functions. Election is by proportional representation. To participate in the distribution of seats, a party must obtain at least 10% of the votes cast at the national level as well as a percentage of votes in the contested district according to a complex formula. The president enacts laws passed by Parliament within 15 days. With the exception of budgetary laws, the president may return a law to the Parliament for reconsideration. If Parliament reenacts the law, it is binding, although the president may then apply to the Constitutional Court for a reversal of the law. Constitutional amendments pass with a 60% vote, but require a popular referendum unless passed with a two-thirds majority; the president may also submit amendments passed with a two-thirds majority to a popular referendum.
The judiciary is declared to be independent, but the need for judicial reform and confirmation of its independence are subjects of open debate. Internationally recognized human rights, including freedom of thought, expression, assembly, and travel, are officially enshrined in the Constitution but have at times been narrowly interpreted, can be limited in times of emergency and cannot be used to violate what the Constitution and the courts consider the integrity of the state or to impose a system of government based on religion, ethnicity, or the domination of one social class. The Constitution prohibits torture or ill treatment; the current government has focused on ensuring that practice matches principle. Labor rights, including the right to strike, are recognized in the Constitution but can be restricted.
The 1982 Constitution provides for a system of State Security Courts to deal with offenses against the integrity of the state. The high court system includes a Constitutional Court responsible for judicial review of legislation, a Court of Cassation (or Supreme Court of Appeals), a Council of State serving as the high administrative and appeals court, a Court of Accounts, and a Military Court of Appeals. The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, appointed by the president, supervises the judiciary.
In the November 2002 election of Turkey's 58th government, the Justice and Development Party (AK) captured 34.3% of the total votes, making Abdullah Gul Prime Minister, followed by the Republican People's Party (CHP) with 19.39% of the vote, led by Deniz Baykal. A special General Election was held again in the province of Siirt in March 2003, resulting in the election of AK's chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a seat in parliament, allowing him to become prime minister. AK and CHP were the only parties to surpass the 10% threshold required to hold seats in parliament. The elections resulted in 363 of the 550 seats going to AK, 178 seats to CHP, and 9 as independent. Due to a reshuffle in party affiliation, AK holds 367 seats, CHP holds 175 seats, five are independent, and three joined the True Path Party (DYP). In March 2004 nationwide local elections, AKP won 57 of 81 provincial capital municipalities and, with 41.8% of the votes for provincial council seats, consolidated its hold on power.
The Turkish Grand National Assembly was to have elected in May 2007 a new president to succeed President Sezer on June 16. Opposition parties led a challenge to the electoral procedures, which resulted in a series of proposed constitutional amendments and the call for early general elections on July 22. The new parliament, which was sworn in on July 28, includes 341 AKP members, 98 CHP members, 70 Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members, 20 Democratic Society Party (DTP) members, 13 Democratic Left Party (DSP) members, and 7 independents. Following the election, Sezer reappointed Erdogan as PM and then-Foreign Minister Gul declared his presidential candidacy. The parliament elected Gul in the third round of voting on August 28. President Gul approved Erdogan's proposed cabinet on August 30, and the new government received a vote of confidence on September 5.
Principal Government Officials
Turkey maintains an embassy in the United States at 2525 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 612-6700. Consulates general in Chicago (360 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1405, Chicago, IL 60601, tel: 312-263-0644, ext. 28); Los Angeles (4801 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 310, Los Angeles, CA 90010, tel: 323-937-0118); New York (821 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, tel: 212-949-0160); and Houston (1990 Post Oak Blvd., Suite 1300, Houston, TX 77056, tel: 713-622-5849). The Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations is located on 821 United Nations Plaza, 10th floor, New York, NY 10017, tel: 212-949-0150.
Turkey is a large, middle-income country with relatively few natural resources. Its economy is currently in transition from a high degree of reliance on agriculture and heavy industrial economy to a more diversified economy with an increasingly large and globalized services sector. Coming out of a tradition of a state-directed economy that was relatively closed to the outside world, Prime Minister and then President Turgut Ozal began to open up the economy in the 1980s, leading to the signing of a Customs Union with the European Union in 1995. In the 1990s, Turkey's economy suffered from a series of coalition governments with weak economic policies, leading to high-inflation boom-and-bust cycles that culminated in a severe banking and economic crisis in 2001 and a deep economic downturn (GNP fell 9.5% in 2001) and increase in unemployment.
Turkey's economy has recovered strongly from the 2001 thanks to good monetary and fiscal policies and structural economic reforms made with the support of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The independence of the Central Bank has been firmly established, a floating exchange rate system has been put in place, and the government's overall budget deficit has been substantially reduced. In addition, there have been substantial reforms in the financial, energy, and telecommunications sectors that have included the privatization of several large state-owned institutions.
Turkey's economy grew an average of 7.5% per year from 2002 through 2006--one of the highest sustained rates of growth in the world. It is expected to grow about 6.1% in 2007. Inflation and interest rates have fallen significantly, the currency has stabilized, government debt has declined to more supportable levels, and business and consumer confidence have returned. At the same time, booming economic growth has contributed to a growing current account deficit. Though Turkey's vulnerabilities have been greatly reduced, the economy could still face problems in the event there is a sudden change in investor sentiment that leads to a sharp fall in the exchange rate. Continued implementation of reforms, including tight fiscal policy, is essential to sustain growth and stability.
After years of low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), in 2006, Turkey succeeded in attracting $18.9 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) and is expected to attract a similar level in 2007. A series of large privatizations, the stability fostered by the start of Turkey's EU accession negotiations, strong and stable growth, and structural changes in the banking, retail, and telecommunications sectors have all contributed to the rise in foreign investment. Turkey has taken steps to improve its investment climate through administrative streamlining, an end to foreign investment screening, and strengthened intellectual property legislation. However, a number of disputes involving foreign investors in Turkey and certain policies, such as high taxation and continuing gaps in the intellectual property regime, inhibit investment. Turkey has a number of bilateral investment and tax treaties, including with the United States, which guarantee free repatriation of capital in convertible currencies and eliminate double taxation.
EU Accession. Turkey's principal ongoing economic challenge is providing for the needs of a fast-growing, young population. Raising living standards to those prevalent in Europe will require high rates of GDP growth sustained over many years. This will entail continued structural reforms that encourage both domestic and foreign investment. Principal areas for reform identified by international financial intuitions include increasing flexibility in the labor market, making the educational sector more responsive to the needs of the economy and ensuring faster and more predictable operation of the judicial system. As an aspirant to membership in the European Union, Turkey aims to adopt the EU's basic system of national law and regulation (the acquis communautaire) by 2014. While implementing some elements of the acquis will be costly and difficult (for example in the areas of environmental protection and agriculture), its adoption will make a significant contribution to modernizing the economy.
Energy. Installed electricity generation capacity in Turkey reached 35,600 megawatts (MW) as of 2004. Fossil fuels account for 71% of the total installed capacity and hydro, geothermal, and wind account for the remaining 28%. The growth in electricity generation has remained below electricity demand until recently, which has made Turkey a net importer of electricity since 1997. The growth of energy demand slowed somewhat as a result of the 2001 economic crisis, but has picked up again. Turkish authorities expect a significant electricity shortfall unless new facilities become operational. The Government of Turkey took some important steps in 2001 to liberalize its energy sector, including passage of the Electricity Market Law and establishment of the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA). However, the government has moved slowly to follow through on plans to liberalize and privatize the electricity and natural gas sectors. In 2004, the High Planning Council approved the Electricity Sector Reform Strategy to renew the reform process.
Oil provides about 43% of Turkey's total energy requirements; around 90% is imported. Domestic production is mostly from small fields in the southeast. New exploration is taking place in the eastern Black Sea. In 2004, the Parliament approved a petroleum market reform bill that liberalized consumer prices and would lead to the privatization of the state refining company TUPRAS. TUPRAS was privatized in 2005, but this has been held up by court cases still in process. Turkey has a refining capacity of 802,275 barrels per day (b/d).
Turkey acts as an important link in the East-West Southern Energy Corridor bringing Caspian, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern energy to Europe and world markets. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which came online in July 2006, delivers 1 million b/d of petroleum, and in 2007, the South Caucasus Pipeline (from Shah Deniz) is expected to bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey. Turkey is building an interconnector pipeline to Greece, an important step in bringing Caspian natural gas to Europe via Turkey.
Telecommunications. Parliament enacted legislation separating telecommunications policy and regulatory functions in January 2000, by establishing an independent regulatory body, the Telecommunication Authority. The Authority is responsible for issuing licenses, supervising operators, and taking necessary technical measures against violations of the rules. Most regulatory functions of the Transport Ministry were transferred to the Authority, and the regulator is slowly gaining competence and independence. The long-expected privatization of the state-owned telecommunications company was accomplished by the sale of 55% of Turk Telekom to the Saudi-owned Oger Group in November 2005. With liberalization and growth in the economy, there is growing competition for Internet provision, but Turk Telekom remains the sole provider of ADSL wide band Internet.
Environment. With the establishment of the Environment Ministry in 1991, Turkey began to make significant progress addressing its most pressing environmental problems. The most dramatic improvements were significant reductions of air pollution in Istanbul and Ankara. However, progress has been slow on the remaining--and serious--environmental challenges facing Turkey.
In 2003, the Ministry of Environment was merged with the Forestry Ministry. With its goal to join the EU, Turkey has made commendable progress in updating and modernizing its environmental legislation. However, environmental concerns are not fully integrated into public decision-making and enforcement can be weak. Turkey faces a backlog of environmental problems, requiring enormous outlays for infrastructure. The most pressing needs are for water treatment plants, wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste management, and conservation of biodiversity. The discovery of a number of chemical waste sites in 2006 has highlighted weakness in environmental law and oversight.
Transport. The Turkish Government gives a special priority to major infrastructure projects, especially in the transport sector. The government is in the process of building new airports and highways, thanks to an increased public investment budget. The government will realize many of these projects by utilizing the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model.
Turkey's primary political, economic, and security ties are with the West, although some voices call for a more "Eurasian" orientation.
Turkey entered NATO in 1952 and serves as the organization's vital eastern anchor, controlling the straits leading from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and sharing a border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. A NATO headquarters is located in Izmir. Besides its relationships with NATO and the EU, Turkey is a member of the OECD, the Council of Europe, and OSCE. Turkey also is a member of the UN and the Islamic Conference Organization (OIC). In December 1999, Turkey became a candidate for EU membership. On December 17, 2004, the EU decided to begin formal accession negotiations with Turkey in October 2005.
Turkey and the EU formed a customs union beginning January 1, 1996. The agreement covers industrial and processed agricultural goods. Turkey is harmonizing its laws and regulations with EU standards. Turkey adopted the EU's Common External Tariff regime, effectively lowering Turkey's tariffs for third countries, including the United States.
On October 3, 2005, Turkey and the EU reached agreement for Turkey to begin negotiations on accession to the European Union. Turkey and EU officials have begun the process of screening Turkey's laws and policies in order to begin negotiating the individual chapters required for ultimate EU accession.
Turkey opened and provisionally closed in 2006 one EU negotiating chapter on science and technology. Another chapter on statistics was opened in February 2007, and two more are expected to be opened by July 1, 2007. Eight chapters, mostly related to trade, were suspended by the European Council in December 2006 after Turkey declined to open its ports and airports to Cypriot vessels--a commitment Turkey made as part of the Ankara Protocol and its EU Customs Union membership.
Turkey is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). It has signed free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Israel, and many other countries. In 1992 Turkey and 10 other regional nations formed the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) Council to expand regional trade and economic cooperation. Turkey chaired BSEC in 2007 and hosted in Istanbul the 15th BSEC Summit in June 2007.
Principal U.S. Officials
The U.S. Embassy is located at 110 Ataturk Boulevard, Kavaklidere, Ankara 06100, tel: (90) (312) 455-5555.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
For the latest security information, Americans living and traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet web site at http://www.travel.state.gov, where the current Worldwide Caution, Public Announcements, and Travel Warnings can be found. Consular Affairs Publications, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are also available at http://www.travel.state.gov. For additional information on international travel, see http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
The Department of State encourages all U.S citizens traveling or residing abroad to register via the State Department's travel registration website or at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency and will enable you to receive up-to-date information on security conditions.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada or the regular toll line 1-202-501-4444 for callers outside the U.S. and Canada.
The National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone: 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, Eastern Time, excluding federal holidays.
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled "Health Information for International Travel" (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Further Electronic Information
Export.gov provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help with the export process, and more.STAT-USA/Internet, a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic, business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the National Trade Data Bank.
Revised: Sep. 2007