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The Kapali Carsi

Greece and Turkey: Throwing Stones in a Glass House

Weekend is for non-econ / lighter stuff, so here we go:

The comments to my post Greece, Europe and Turkey; Euro, Drachma and Lira summarize the views of Greeks and Turks towards each other really well…

The title comes from reader Christos’ last comment: “”he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones” He argues that Turkey has a “poor human rights record and lack of judicial due process”, and so I should be worrying about these rather than claim that Greece will leave the Euro.

Unlike the Turkish foreign minister, I have no fantasies about Turkey becoming a bastion of democracy and regional leader and example to the Arab spring: If you follow me on Twitter (@EmreDeliveli), you’ll see that I often give links to articles that are critical of the imprisoned journalists or Kurds. Neither do I buy into the Turkish economic miracle story; in fact, I  have argued many times that the macroeconomic reforms of the last few years have not been followed by microeconomic ones. But I really don’t see why Turkey’s woes should prevent me from commenting on Greece’s dire straits (I wonder what Mark Knopfler and co is up to now)…

But while I’m at it, let me address all of Christos’ Turkey critiques (my answers in parentheses): corrupt judiciary (yep, just like Greece’s another similarity between the two countries), no democratic institutions (that’s a bit strong, I would call it a semi-democracy, or a hybrid regime, as an NYU grad student working on her thesis who contacted me for advice calls it; she has a neat definition, but I haven’t taken her permission to use it), denies the Armenian genocide (the government denies, I don’t and am truly sorry for it, just as I don’t deny the many Turks that were killed in the same conflict by Armenian gangs as well), coddles dictators (which ones?), continues to oppress the Kurds (agreed), its borderscare burningvand is leaning towards a Islamic theocracy (I hope not).

Joking aside, I think reader Tobin is right on target that “both countries are not good examples for many things either economic or political”. In fact, I argued in the post that Turkey is suffering from similar bureaucratic hurdles that the article from Roubini’s Economist Meg discussed in her piece. He (Tobin may be a she, but the name reminds me of the late Jim Tobin I RA’ed for, I’ll use “he” to commemorate him) is also right that both countries share the “the passion for consumption”. Greece’s was spread over 3 decades, Turkey’s just 1, but otherwise similar….

As for Christos’ natural gas arguments: Greek debt is currently 16o percent of GDP if I am not mistaken. So that would make a lot of gas, even if they convince the Cypriots to give it to them:) But if he is (or if you are) really interested on which sectors the country would be competitive in the long run, McKinsey just published a report on that. And BTW, I appreciate all the ancient Greek ruins in Turkey, but I don’t see how they are relevant to what is going on today.

But what truly disappointed me in Christos’ comments were not his Turkey criticisms. I agree with some of those, as you have noticed. But it saddens me to see that he thinks I have written that post just to tarnish Greece. In his own words, ” Turkish media still spins rhetoric against Greece in this day and age” and “it’s so called journalists like you that distort realty with biased comments geared to a very paranoid audience in your country that show your fear of a resurgent and dominant Greece coupled with Turkey’s lack of national self esteem.”

First of all, I am not a journalist, just a mere economics columnist, but Paul Krugman calls himself a journalist, so I can live with that, I guess:) BTW, as I mentioned in the post, he (and many others) have made the same point as well. My arguments were more or less the consensus view. So maybe Krugman is Turkish, as well as the hundreds of economics commentators /journalists/analysts who think along these lines…

Joking aside, even at the height of Turkey-Greece tensions in the 80s and early 90s, most Turks simply did not care about Greece. In one of my first abroad trips more than two decades ago, I was shocked to learn, from my Greek classmates at the English language school in the UK, that “Turks invaded Greece” was a popular April fool’s day joke in the country. Moreover, my friends knew the name of the Turkish chief of staff, whereas the only modern Greek I had heard of was Papandreou (the father), and that because he and his stewardess mistress were in Turkish papers a lot. And today, most Turks have no animosity towards Greece and Greeks. For example, many Turks were genuinely happy when Greece won the European Football Championship in 2004. As for me, I have many very good friends in the US, as the countries (and cultures) are very similar.

So I would like to think there aren’t many who think like Christos, either in Turkey or in Greece. I am probably right, as Greeks were the first to help in the 1999 earthquake. But it still saddens me to read a biased comment like this…

But I really liked his remark, “the best Turkey is fried in Grease.” That was a good one:)…

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