Gül criticizes leaders in Europe of ‘petty politics’
Turkish President Abdullah Gül (L) welcomed by former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. AA photo
European leaders are guilty of engaging in “petty politics” by leaning toward the far right instead of finding new ways to fight the economic crisis, Turkish President Abdullah Gül said May 23 at Stanford University.
“A leader should not always seek the easy and well-worn path ahead. He or she should be ready to go a new direction and leave a trail behind,” said Gül in the conference, adding that the current situation in Europe is “a telling example of how the lack of visionary leadership could adversely affect the lives of millions.” “In recent months, we have witnessed in one after another election far-right parties gaining strength. And, even worse, their ideologies and views are more and more becoming part of the mainstream,” Gül was quoted as saying by the Presidency’s website, adding that this was an example of “petty-politics at its worst.”
Gül said the steps which brought European states closer to far-right politics were an example of the failure of leadership. “First, Europe’s leaders failed to see the looming economic problems,” he said. “Consequently, the limitations of the European leaders in taking necessary decisions brought about the financial calamities they currently face. And now, there are growing tendencies across Europe to become more [inward-looking] and to give in to the rise of extremist political groups.” Gül was welcomed by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before addressing students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Speaking about the changes in Arab countries during his speech, Gül said leaders in the Middle East had long been out of touch with their people. The president said dictators in countries like Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Syria long thought they could stay in power as long as their armies and intelligence services were strong.
‘I was right to visit Yerevan’
Speaking of his historic visit to the Armenian capital of Yerevan in 2008, Gül said it was “a risky move” for domestic political considerations and for foreign policy implications. “I went to Yerevan, marking the first-ever visit of a Turkish president to Armenia. The reward I was expecting from this gesture was a mending of fences between our two nations. I still pursue this hope. … Risky as it was, I did the right thing by visiting Yerevan,” Gül said.
Asked by Rice about Egypt’s election, Gül said Turkey was a Muslim country and was continuing its reforms on the way to the EU membership. “You will see that more Muslim states have democracy in the near future.” Gül also said Turkey’s currently poor relations with Israel were a result of Tel Aviv’s choices. Relations deteriorated after nine Turks were killed in an Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which aimed to break the Gaza blockade in May 2010. Gül reiterated that Turkey’s demand for an apology from Israel had remained unanswered. On a lighter note, the president also shared a memory of his childhood, saying he failed to sell soft drinks at his grandfather’s shop because he was too shy to shout “Ice-cold soda!” “That was the end of my business career! If that very failure would not have happened that day, most probably I would not be the president of the Turkish Republic today,” he said. Gül met with Apple executives later on May 23.