THE EIFFEL TOWER WEARS RED AND WHITE BUT SARKOZY...

Hurriyet Daily News
Sunday, October 11, 2009

One of the most impressive activities of "Turkey Season" in France is
the illumination of the Eiffel Tower, Paris' symbol, with the colors
of the Turkish flag, red and white.

I watched the tower in red and white the whole night in a restaurant
at the top of the Musee de l'Homme" in Trocadero Square.

This lightening will last only five days but it has already sparked
discussions in France.

A few months ago, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe in a surprise
announcement at Galatasaray University in Istanbul gave the good
news that the Eiffel Tower will be lightened in red and white. But
he was targeted by extremist rightist groups, especially by the
National Front.

Delanoe, however, did not retreat against the National Front, which
prepared flyers reading "No to a Turkish Eiffel Tower."

As he awarded Turkish writer and 2006 Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk with
the "Grande Medaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris" this week,
Delanoe said, "I am being criticized about the Eiffel Tower, but I
will not apologize because I stand by my words."

As protests of National Front spread, the Armenian lobby getting
prepared for another protest in front of the tower had a mind change at
the last minute in order not to be remembered with extremist rightists,
so it is said.

Posters in Paris streets

Decoration of the Eiffel Tower with red and white lights coincides
with one of the biggest exhibitions as part of Turkey Season.

The opening of the "From Byzantium to Istanbul" exhibition at the
Grand Palais brought French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Turkish
counterpart Abdullah Gul to the exhibition, but not at the same time.

State Minister Hayati Yazıcı and State Minister for EU Works Egemen
BagıÅ~_ accompanied Gul for the opening ceremony. Gul delivered a
speech at Medef, French Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association,
and at UNESCO.

As for the Gul-Sarkozy rendezvous, we, jo lists, expected them to
open the exhibition together. But the program was changed a few times
because of Sarkozy's multiple interferences, according to diplomatic
circles.

According to Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency head
Å~^ekib Avdagic, who said the agency provided 1 million euros for
decorating the streets of Paris with posters for Turkey Season,
invitation cards were printed twice because of the changes in
Sarkozy's program.

In the end, the two presidents strolled at the exhibition the other
morning instead of inaugurating the exhibition together.

Sarkozy's whimsical attitude

According to Avdagic again, Sarkozy opposed taking a tour of the
exhibition under Sabancı Museum Director Nazan Olcer.

So Olcer guided half of the tour and a French expert took over the
other half.

I see that the Turkish side is fed up with Sarkozy's whimsical
behaviors.

In short, as Mayor Delanoue embraces the exhibition at the Grand
Palais, the Sarkozy government keeps a distance.

None of the French ministers accompanied Gul, but that's another story.

No matter how hard Sarkozy tries to remain at arm's length, Turkey
Season in France is found quite attractive.

For instance, Le Figaro daily the other day published a large
advertisement reading "Istanbul is your inspiration" and included an
exclusive interview with Avgadic.

Right after the exhibition at the Grand Palais, three exhibitions
will be opened at the Louvre Museum with the participation of Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Oct. 21.

The exhibitions, In the Sultan's Palace: Robes of Topkapı Palace;
>From Ä°zmir to Smyrna: Exploration of an Antique City; and The Kings
Tombs in Anatolia, will undoubtedly make a tremendous impact.

As far as I see, both the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts,
or IKSV, Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency, and other
players of Turkey Season are devoting themselves to the activities
so much that they will never be discouraged by Sarkozy's whimsical
attitudes.