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The Eiffel Tower wears red and white but Sarkozy…

Sunday 25 October 2009, by Gila Benmayor


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 Gül to the exhibition, but not at the same time.

State Minister Hayati Yazıcı and State Minister for EU Works Egemen Bağış accompanied Gül for the opening ceremony. Gül delivered a speech at Medef, French Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association, and at UNESCO.

As for the Gül-Sarkozy rendezvous, we, journalists, 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 Şekib Avdagiç, 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 Avdagiç again, Sarkozy opposed taking a tour of the exhibition under Sabancı Museum Director Nazan Ölçer.

So Ölçer 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 Gül, 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 Avgadiç.

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 Davutoğlu on Oct. 21.

The exhibitions, In the Sultan’s Palace: Robes of Topkapı Palace; From İzmir 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.

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Source: HDN, le 11.10.09

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