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Cablegate: Turkey's "Euro" Vision

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000974

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SCUL TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY'S "EURO" VISION

1. Summary: While European officials assess GOT efforts
toward meeting the Copenhagen Criteria in advance of the EU
Council's important December Summit, Turkey's de facto
integration into the cultural life of Europe deepens.
Turkey's hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest in Istanbul,
along with the achievements of Turkish artists and athletes
in European events, gives some indication that Turkey's place
in Europe is solidly established independent of political
institutions. End Summary.

Hosting Europe's "Uber-Kitsch" Event
------------------------------------
2. On May 15, an estimated 100 million viewers across Europe
tuned in on Turkey as Istanbul hosted the 49th Eurovision
Song Contest. For the uninitiated, Eurovision is more than
an "American Idol" talent show. Thirty-six countries sent
participants to the contest, and some 4.2 million televoters,
many of whom paid for the right to vote, determined the
winner. It's a classic yearly event that combines neighborly
love with flag-waving patriotism, and inspires viewing
parties in homes across Europe, much like Oscars night in the
United States. (Note: The show has launched the careers of
such stars as the group ABBA and Celine Dion. End note.)

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3. Sertab, Turkey's representative in the 2003 contest, won
the event last year, thus bestowing the honor of hosting this
year upon her home city. Turkey's newspaper headlines all
but hailed her victory last year as tantamount to entry into
the EU itself: "She conquered Europe," proclaimed Milliyet.
This year's Turkish entry, a ska group called Athena, placed
a respectable fourth (right between #3 Greece and #5 Cyprus),
but, more importantly, the event went off smoothly, and
organizers put on an impressive show for all of Europe to
watch. The show was hosted in perfect French and English,
and spectators in the 10,500 seat arena, sold out months in
advance, waved Greek, Turkish, FYROM, and Cypriot flags
almost side by side.

Arts: Popstars and Prizes for Literature, Film
--------------------------------------------- --
4. Eurovision is just one of many examples of Turkey's de
facto integration into European cultural life. Turkey's
first international popstar, Tarkan, who has already achieved
commercial success in several European countries, released
his fourth album last year and launched a European concert
tour. Istanbul-born author Orhan Pamuk is known throughout
Europe. His recent novel "My Name is Red" won the
International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2003; this award
was the latest in a series of European honors dating back to
his 1991 Prix de la Decouverte Europeenne for the French
translation of his second novel, "Sessiz_Ev" ("The Quiet
House").

5. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, Turkish artists
Muzaffer Ozdemir and Emin Toprak won the Best Actor awards,
and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won the Grand Prize of the
Jury, for the film "Uzak." The same film was named FIPRESCI
Film of the Year at the San Sebastian International Film
festival. (Additionally, Turkish-German director Fatih Akin
won the Golden Bear for best film honors at the Berlin
International Film Festival last year for "Gegen die Wand
(Head on)," a film about second-generation Turks in Germany.)

Sports: Turkish Football, the Golden Girl, and the Sultans of
the Net
------------ ----------------- ---------------------
----------------
5. The situation is similar in the sports world. Turkish
soccer teams are invariably in the thick of the action, as
they were in the 2003-2004 UEFA Champions League tournament
when Istanbul club Besiktas met Chelsea and Istanbul rival
Galatasaray (the 2000 UEFA Champion) took on Juventas.
(Note: Turks were miffed, however, when the games they were
due to host last year were moved to alternate venues after
the November Istanbul bombings. Turks were later quick to
note that similar changes in venue did not happen after the
March bombings in Madrid. Indeed, to highlight the point,
Turkish teams emphasized their readiness to carry through
with planned matches in Spain in the bombing's aftermath.
End note.) Turkish and second-generation Turkish soccer
stars also feature on a number of top European clubs.
Although the Turkish national team failed to qualify for EURO
2004, it is still basking in its third-place World Cup 2002
finish.

6. Turkey's female athletes often dominate the local sports
headlines as well. Elvan Abeylegesse, formerly of Ethiopia
but now running for Turkey, broke a world record in the
women's 5000-meter event at the Bergen Golden League meeting
in Norway on June 11. Track and field star "Golden Girl"
Sureyya Ayhan has been a darling of the European media for
several years running. She won the silver medal in last
fall's 1500 meters final at the 9th World Athletic
Championship in Saint Denis, France, and shortly thereafter
set a world record in Belgium's Van Damme Golden League
Tournament. Turks also took great pride in this year's
second-place European finish of the "Sultans of the Net," the
national Women's Volleyball Team, and the victory of one of
its club teams in the European Women's Volleyball
Championship.

7. In sum, European public opinion may be skeptical about
the politics of GOT joining the European Union, but civil
society has shown that sharing space with Turkey in the
cultural realm is as natural as can be.
ARNETT

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