by instituDE, published on 15 April 2024


"What does the reorganization of the Foreign Ministry mean?" by Hasan Gogus, Yetkin Report

Amendments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs section of Presidential Decree No. 1 on the restructuring of ministries following the transition to the presidential system were published in the Official Gazette over the weekend. After Minister Hakan Fidan's presentation at the budget talks in the Turkish Grand National Assembly last year, a number of structural changes were expected to be made within the ministry. The April 6 preamble to Presidential Decree No. 158 states that the legislative amendments required for structural changes were initiated with this decree. Therefore, it is understood that changes in the organizational structure will follow.

The most notable structural change is the increase in the number of general directorates in the domestic organization from 14 to 38 and the reduction of the number of presidencies from 10 to 5.

The increase in the number of general directorates will also facilitate the work of deputy ministers, who have been under a heavy workload since the abolition of deputy undersecretaries. The most crucial condition for easing the burden on ministers and deputy ministers is to give more initiative to executive units in decision-making processes.

The removal of the word "political" from the name of the Directorate General for Bilateral Political Affairs and the increase in its number to 16 indicates that a new "desk system" based on specialization will be introduced at the Directorate General level.

The decree also authorizes the minister to assign deputy directors general to other departments of the ministry as needed. For this purpose, informing the presidency will be sufficient; no further approval is required.

"Ekrem Imamoglu on Turkey's renewed faith in democracy", by Ekrem Imamoglu, The Economist

This victory showed that true democratic power lies in the hands of the people. This was a vote of confidence in a new form of municipal governance that we have termed the "Istanbul Model". 

Their message is clear. From now on they want to see a country governed by the rule of law and democracy. They reject divisive policies and authoritarianism. They envision a united Turkey, not one torn apart by polarisation. Furthermore, this election result was a protest against the deepening economic crisis: soaring inflation, rising unemployment and a cost-of-living squeeze.

The election has also shown that citizens can form much stronger alliances than political elites. Even if parties and political leaders lose hope in democracy, citizens do not.

It is a turning-point that carries profound implications, not only for Turkey but also for its immediate region and beyond. It shows how authoritarian tendencies can be challenged and serves as an example to the world.

The CHP has now emerged as the strongest alternative to Mr Erdogan's AK for the leadership of the country. Over the next five years social-democratic mayors will govern municipalities that account for more than 70% of Turkey's population and almost 80% of its economy. As we move towards the next presidential and parliamentary elections, changes at the local level will lay the groundwork for broader changes on the national stage.


Turkey's Election Authority Rejects Opposition's Fraud Claims in Hatay

The Supreme Election Board (YSK), Turkey's top election authority, rejected objections from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) regarding alleged election fraud in Hatay. 

The CHP raised two appeals with the board, highlighting a narrow margin of only 2,569 votes between their candidate, Lütfü Savaş, and the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) Mehmet Onturk. The party demanded a recount of all votes, or at least a recount of nearly 39,000 invalid votes.

Good Party Leader Will Not Seek Re-Election Following Election Loss

Meral Aksener, leader of the nationalist opposition Good Party, announced in a statement on X on April 8 that she would not seek re-election to party leadership.

She said she took responsibility for the party's decision not to join an election alliance and was ready to face the consequences. Her decision follows criticism over the party's poor performance in the local elections on March 31.  

On April 10, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, an ally of the ruling party, commented on Good Party leader Aksener's decision to step down from the party leadership. Bahceli warned that several candidates are vying for the leadership position, which could lead to divisions within the party. He advised the Good Party to make a decision carefully and avoid falling into any political games or provocations.


World Bank Reveals Details of $18 Billion Financing Package

The World Bank shared the details of the program signed between the World Bank and Turkey, which forms the basis of financial and technical cooperation for the 2024-2028 period. 

The Country Cooperation Framework (CPF) will focus on productivity growth, employment, better public service delivery, and resilience to natural disasters.

The CPF aims to reduce income and other inequalities, enhance job opportunities for women, youth, and vulnerable groups, and strengthen employment and disaster resilience.

Treasury and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek announced the establishment of the five-year financial cooperation program through a strong partnership with the World Bank.

The program includes an additional $18 billion financing package, with $6 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and $9 billion from the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) will mobilize $3 billion through short-term guarantees. Two-thirds of the financing will be allocated to private sector development.

Turkey's Interest Rate Hike Leads to Soaring Mortgage Payments

The Central Bank's decision to increase the policy interest rate to 50 percent in March has led to skyrocketing monthly mortgage payments. This surge in interest rates, combined with soaring construction costs over the past two years, has caused significant problems in the housing sector. Many contractors are hesitant to start new housing projects for low and middle-income groups, fearing that they won't be able to sell the properties.

According to the Central Bank's housing price index for March, house prices rose by 5.4 percent monthly and 132.76 percent annually. 

For instance, at the state-owned Ziraat Bank, the monthly interest rate for a two million lira ($62,000) mortgage was 3.89 percent as of April 11. With a total repayment amounting to 9.44 million liras ($292,000), the monthly installment for a 120-month loan would be approximately 78,000 lira ($2,400).

Rosatom Begins Commissioning First Unit of Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Turkey

Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear power corporation, has started the commissioning process for the first unit of Turkey's Akkuyu nuclear power plant. In a press release on April 9, the company reported that progress on the "nuclear island" at the Akkuyu plant is on track. 

The plant, located in Mersin province, is the only nuclear power facility in Turkey, and its construction began in 2018. All four units are expected to be running by the end of 2028, providing around 10% of Turkey's electricity.

Challenges Ahead for Turkey's Fifth-Generation Fighter Jet Kaan

Turkey's fifth-generation fighter jet, Kaan, made its first flight last month, marking a significant step for Ankara's defense industry. However, the fleet has a long way to go before it can compete with other advanced fleets developed by the United States, Russia, and China.

Production lines and resource procurement are among the top issues: some defense analysts say that Kaan's domestically made engines might not be ready until 2040, though the jets' manufacturer has said it will deliver the first batch of fighters to the Turkish Air Force in 2028, Barin Kayaoglu writes in this technical dispatch.

Additionally, testing the planned eight prototypes with thousands of hours of ground and flight tests may delay the aircraft's mass production. Kayaoglu claims that funding the large-scale project remains another hurdle to overcome. 

Turkish Police Seize Third-Largest Cocaine Haul in Country's History

Turkish police seized the third-largest cocaine haul in the country's history, announced Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya. In an operation spanning three provinces, police confiscated 608 kg of mostly liquid cocaine and around 830 kg of precursor chemicals used to process the drug, Yerlikaya posted on X on April 11. 

The operation targeted an international gang allegedly led by a Lebanese-Venezuelan national, who was among four foreign members of the detained organized crime group, along with nine Turks, Yerlikaya said.

Groups monitoring organized crimes note that Turkey is increasingly becoming a transit hub for cocaine from South America to Europe due to tightening security at ports like Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime reported last October that cocaine seizures in Turkey increased by 44% between 2021 and 2022. However, this increase was not seen in data on domestic consumption, indicating that Turkey is likely being used as a drug corridor.


Thousands Have Faced Legal Action Under Turkish Penal Code Articles 299 and 301

Following the 2018 referendum on the Presidential Government System, many citizens, including artists, politicians, young people, and women in Turkey, have faced investigations under Articles 299 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. These articles, related to crimes against the state's sovereignty, have become a tool for the government to silence dissenters.

The Ministry of Justice's 2023 data shows a significant increase in the number of cases filed under these articles. In 2023 alone, chief public prosecutors' offices opened 25,520 cases against 18,856 suspects for "insulting the President." The total number increased to 55,583, including cases carried over from 2022.

The number of people prosecuted in criminal courts under Articles 299 and 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in the four years covering 2019 and 2022 is listed as follows by year:

2019: 13,731

2020: 9,560

2021: 12,304

2022: 16,753

2023: 15,791

In 2023, the legal actions also extended to minors, with 673 cases filed against 552 children under the age of 18.

CoE Calls for Urgent Reforms and Release of Political Prisoners

The Council of Europe Committee of Ministers has urged Turkey to reform its criminal and anti-terrorism laws and release political prisoners promptly, according to its latest monitoring report. Although there was a slight decrease in the backlog of cases awaiting enforcement, the committee stressed ongoing concerns about freedom of expression and assembly, judicial independence, and unwarranted detention in Turkey.

The report highlighted the continued detention of Osman Kavala and the Kurdish political leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. The committee criticized the Turkish Constitutional Court's delay in handling Demirtaş's appeal and called for immediate review and release of the detained political figures. 

On April 9, The European Court of Human Rights granted priority status to a second case lodged by Kavala, his lawyers announced in a statement.

European Court Rules Against Turkey in Former Council of State Member's Case

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Bekir Sozen, a former member of Turkey's Council of State, experienced a violation of his rights. Sozen had been sentenced to 7 years and 6 months in prison for allegedly being a member of the Gulen movement.

The ECHR found that Sozen's right to a fair trial was violated because he was not given the chance to appeal the decision that disqualified him from the Council of State. The court ordered Ankara to pay Sozen 7,800 euros in damages and 1,000 euros for court costs.

This ruling serves as a precedent for hundreds of other cases currently pending before the court. The ECHR had chosen Sozen's case as a pilot case from the collective applications filed by 120 members of the Council of State and the Court of Cassation whose memberships were revoked under Law No. 6723 amending the law on the Council of State and certain other laws designed to restructure the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Grup Yorum Member Bahar Kurt's Arm Broken in Izmir Prison

Music group "Grup Yorum" member Bahar Kurt's arm was broken in Izmir Closed Women's Prison in Şakran.

Kurt's lawyer, Doga Incesu, told Bianet that they have filed a criminal complaint against the guards with the Izmir Chief Public Prosecutor's Office for torture and ill-treatment.

Incesu also mentioned that after the incident, Kurt faced many challenges in accessing health care and treatment.

Bahar Kurt's mother, Nagehan Kurt, also expressed concerns about the health system not functioning properly, and her daughter's imprisonment has further hindered her treatment.


Iran's Attack on Israel Sparks Regional Concerns and Diplomatic Efforts

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel on April 13. This attack followed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's statement on April 10 that Israel "must be punished" for attacking the Iranian embassy compound in Syria on April 1.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Tehran informed the United States that its attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense. Regional neighbors were also notified of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance, Amirabdollahian added.

A Turkish diplomatic source confirmed that Iran informed Turkey in advance. 

On April 14, Turkey warned Iran with a written statement by the Foreign Ministry that it does not want further escalation in the region.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the same day, expressing concerns about the possible spread and escalation of the crisis, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

Fidan told Blinken that the ongoing conflict in Gaza was the underlying cause of the crisis and urged for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted humanitarian aid access to the enclave.

Turkey Imposes Trade Restrictions on Israel Over Gaza Conflict

Trade Ministry said that Turkey will impose trade restrictions on Israel starting April 9 due to the war in Gaza. The restrictions include products such as cement, iron, and steel construction materials.

The ministry announced on X that the decision will remain in place until Israel declares an immediate ceasefire and allows consistent humanitarian aid into Gaza. The ministry also shared a list of 54 products subject to export restrictions.

This decision follows Turkey's claim that Israel blocked its attempt to airdrop aid to Gaza. On April 8, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan pledged to take retaliatory actions against Israel, stating they would be carried out gradually and without delay.

In response, Israel announced on April 9 that it would take action against Turkey, accusing it of breaking trade agreements between the two nations. The foreign ministry stated that Turkey is violating trade deals unilaterally, and Israel will respond with measures that could hurt Turkey's economy. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel will not yield to violence and coercion and will take similar steps against Turkey.

Iraq Aims to Reopen Pipeline to Turkey by Month's End

Baghdad is working on fixing a pipeline that could allow the flow of 350,000 barrels of oil per day to Turkey by the end of the month, according to an Iraqi deputy oil minister. On April 8, Basim Mohammed, the deputy oil minister for upstream affairs, told Reuters that the repair work is ongoing, and a major crude pumping station with storage facilities has been completed. The pipeline is expected to restart by the end of April.

Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline has been closed since 2014 due to attacks by Islamic State militants. The reopening of the pipeline would offer an alternative to a pipeline from the Kurdistan region that has been inactive for a year due to stalled negotiations between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). This move could also upset foreign oil companies and the KRG.

Two Iraqi oil officials and a government energy adviser stated that the agreement between Baghdad and Ankara on the Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline operations was extended in 2010 for 15 years and will expire in mid-2025. Talks about extending the agreement will include discussions on resuming operations at the old pipeline.

NGOs Sue Dutch Government Over EU-Turkey Migration Agreement

Three nongovernmental organizations are suing the Dutch government over the European Union's 2016 migration agreement with Turkey, claiming it has caused poor conditions for asylum seekers on Greek islands and violated Dutch, international, and EU laws. The Brussels Signal news website reported on April 8 that Amnesty International, the Amsterdam-based Boat Refugee Foundation, and the Geneva-based Defense for Children hold the Netherlands accountable, as the country presided over the EU when the deal was signed.

The EU-Turkey deal, a cooperation agreement signed in March 2016, aimed to curb irregular migration from Turkey to the Greek islands. The agreement allowed the return of irregular migrants to Turkey. Turkey was also offered €6 billion for refugee aid and the potential for visa-free travel to Europe for its citizens.

Erdogan Offers Condolences to Hamas Leader After Tragic Loss of Sons

On April 10, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences over the phone to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh after the death of Haniyeh's three sons in Gaza. Erdogan said Israel would be held accountable for its crimes against humanity. Haniyeh, based in Qatar, reported that three of his sons and some grandchildren were killed in an Israeli strike.

TRT Arabi Team Injured in Attack on Gaza Refugee Camp

An attack on a refugee camp on April 12 in central Gaza injured several journalists. Israeli tanks carried out a "targeted attack" where several journalists were present at the Nuseirat camp, including a cameraman and correspondent working for TRT Arabi. 

One journalist was critically injured. TRT cameraman Sami Shehada lost a leg, and correspondent Sami Barhoum sustained minor injuries, according to a statement from the Jerusalem bureau chief for Turkish state broadcaster TRT.