The Balkans' High Expectations Of Turkey

BY FIKRET BILA

MILLIYET - We were in Rozaje, a Bosniak town on top of Mt. Hayla, which is covered with pine forests on Montenegro`s border with Serbian. A huge signature of an Ottoman sultan at the entrance to a hotel there got our attention. There were also big Ottoman era pictures on the walls, Ottoman flags, etc. We also heard Turkish classical music from the hotel lobby. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu got a lot of friendly attention from the people of the city. He was welcomed in every café. People hugged him, spoke to him in Turkish, talked about Istanbul, and tried to relate Ottoman memories that they got from their fathers or grandfathers. So there was a festive mood in the town.

Davutoglu was welcomed in Rozaje the way a Cabinet minister is welcomed in an Anatolian town, so the Rozaje mayor told him what the city needs, from infrastructure to a village clinic, and from a school to new business opportunities, just like mayors in Turkey. These requests weren`t limited to Rozaje. Other Bosniak settlements also conveyed their needs.

Davutoglu treated all these requests sensitively and listened to them one by one. On our way back, he brought his team together and discussed item by item what can be done and where the aid can come from. He made use of the Health Ministry, Education Ministry, non-governmental organizations, and the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), and directed that they look into how these requests can be fulfilled. The problems are the same: doctors, teachers, classrooms, hospitals, medical equipment, roads, bridges, etc.

The Bosniaks in Rozaje expect help not only from the state, but also from businessmen. Sarik Tara, the honorary chairman of Enka Holding, is the most prominent of these figures, and his last name is found in many local places. Local leaders said that unless their clinic gets better equipment, the Montenegro government would close it down. They asked businessmen for help as well.

Davutoglu knows the Balkans very well. When there`s an issue here, he immediately calls for a map of Balkans, points to cities and towns on it with great enthusiasm, and tells about historical incidents like he`s lecturing at a university. For example, he shows the city where Mehmet Akif Ersoy (who wrote the lyrics to Turkey`s national anthem) was born, Montenegro`s neighbors, and alternative roads to reach Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, etc. and tells what happened to the people living in a town in 1912.

Davutoglu has a comprehensive stance on the Balkans. He rejects allegations of Ottomanism, saying we don`t favor Ottomanism, but that we want societies living in this region to be provided with modern values and possibilities without disturbing other countries. He added that we also want to provide good relations and cooperation with the countries to which they`re attached and that we consider European Union values to be common values. Davutoglu added that we want to establish ties based on cooperation and friendship with Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania and Greece as well. He also said that the warm interest shown by Serbia in Turkey should be considered important in terms of controlling crises in the country and that Turkey doesn`t practice ethnic or religious discrimination.

Copyright © 2009