Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom
The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) is working for freedom and liberal values in roughly sixty countries around the world! Last year, the Foundation celebrated the 25th anniversary of its work in Turkey. This year, FNF is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its establishment. The official celebration took place in Berlin, in May 2018. On September, 4th, FNF Turkey Office seized the opportunity to simultaneously celebrate the anniversary in Turkey and to present to the Turkish public the Andorra Liberal Manifesto of Liberal International (LI) – in a Turkish translation! As Chairman-Elect of the FNF and as co-author of the Manifesto, Prof. Dr. Karl-Heinz Paqué was invited to present the LI-Manifesto and to participate in a panel discussion titled “Liberalism in the Age of Populism and Illiberal Democracies”.
During times of stability, Liberalism can evolve and grow, but during times of instability there is an opportunity for radical steps forward in our thinking. It is our task to demonstrate that Liberalism can provide the best new ideas and policies for dealing with these challenges and make the best of the new opportunities without abandoning our values and beliefs. We will fight against Illiberalism and strive for the further spread of liberal values, in the spirit of liberal universalism. This is a time to reflect, renew and reclaim our liberal aspirations and to address the current threats to freedom with liberal responses.
The event was opened by Dr. Hans-Georg Fleck, the Head of FNF Turkey Office, who recalled the circumstances when the Oxford Manifesto was written in the early years after World War II and highlighted the current liberal struggles in Europe - such as Brexit. He insisted on preserving the liberal values in Turkey and on preventing the country’s political and diplomatic isolation.
During his speech, Prof. Paqué recalled Germany's responsibility for the outbreak of WWII. He highlighted the initiative of the then Federal President of Germany, Prof. Theodor Heuss, to create a liberal foundation in 1958: the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. After briefly going through the events of the Cold War and the wave of democratization following the fall of the Iron Curtain, Prof. Paqué illustrated the current return of aggressive nationalism with, i.a., the annexation of Crimea by Russia. He emphasized the need for having human rights respected worldwide. In that sense, the role of civil society, especially in semi-authoritarian countries like Hungary and Poland, is vital. Thereafter, Prof. Paqué elaborated on the ten central pillars of the Manifesto that Liberals are striving for, f. ex. providing high-quality education, rely on the international cooperation to combat climate change, support controlled migration and build trust in international institutions. Overall, he insisted on keeping an optimistic worldview while bolstering liberal values. Thus, according to him, populism can be pushed back.
Next to Prof. Paqué, Ass.-Prof. Dr. Berk Esen (Bilkent University, Ankara) and Dr. Zümrüt Imamoğlu, Chief Economist of the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSIAD) participated in the panel discussion, which was facilitated by Prof. Dr. Bican Şahin (Hacettepe University, Ankara). Prof. Esen opened his contribution by defining Turkey as a competitive authoritarian regime. He described a pattern through which authoritarian regimes are established: firstly, win the elections in a context of economic crisis, afterwards use legislative power to weaken checks and balances and threat the media and civil society. According to Prof. Esen, countries like South Africa, Venezuela, Turkey, and Hungary belong to this group. Prof. Esen then suggested solutions to protect liberal values. He emphasized the importance of defending the independence of institutions such as the parliament, the central bank, and the judiciary. The crucial importance of the rule of law and freedom of the media were also mentioned. He pointed out that responding to societal inequalities was necessary in order to resist the threat of populism. Education is also, in his view, a fundamental asset for the preservation of democracy. Finally, he expressed the need for Liberals to adapt to nation states and to find solutions while taking their sovereignty into account. As he put it: “Nation states are here to stay.”
Dr. Imamoğlu adopted a more economic perspective and stressed the importance of regulation in banking and finance. She highlighted the institutional independence of the central bank and illustrated her point of view with the current crisis of the Turkish currency, stating: “When politics exert influence on economic institutions, short-term policies are introduced for electoral purposes.” According to Dr. Imamoğlu, these short-term policies favour small interest groups, as can be seen in Turkey’s building sector. She then underlined the benefits of free trade by recalling the fact that the global equality has increased despite of being unevenly distributed across the globe. In this sense, she alluded to the population living in the Midwest of the USA, who are mostly dissatisfied by the effects of globalization - an allusion to which Prof. Paqué later referred by mentioning - what he called - the "Trump illusion" and - with regard to the jobs in the US-coal industry promised by Donald Trump - to the fact that the “past can never be brought back”.
After the session, the audience had the opportunity to put questions to the panelists. One of the speakers raised the issue of fake news concerning the freedom of expression advocated by the Liberals. Prof. Paqué replied by admitting that fake news is a major concern for Liberals. According to him, Liberals should not overburden the state in order to get rid of fake news but rather “set professional standards for decent speeches.” Another speaker tackled the problem of intra-partisan communication in Turkey, mostly between AKP and CHP supporters. Prof. Esen responded by stressing the importance of “speaking the same language” and formulating arguments in a new way. He emphasized that the responsibility for establishing communication between the parties lies predominantly with the ruling party. He also distinguished politicians from voters by affirming that politicians were the ones responsible for improving intra-partisan communication.
The fruitful discussion was rounded off by a reception hosted by FNF Turkey.
For the Turkish version, click here.