Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Norman Stone

  1.  On the basis of seven years' experience of Turkey, I wish to endorse what Mr Barchard has written. A very important perspective is purely historical: the country has come a long, long way since its foundation in 1923. Back then, you could not rely on a Turk to make a table with stable legs. Now, Turkey's is the sixteenth or seventeenth-largest world economy, and growing. With all the complaints and grievances that go on, this deserves some stress. Turkey and the USSR emerged at roughly the same time, with something of a similar "modernisation" programme. Turkey has been considerably more successful: Russian men die in their late fifties, Turkish ones after three score and ten. Turkey, with not much in the way of raw materials, will, on present form, have greater trade with the West than Russia. Turkey gets quite a bit of bad publicity (incidentally, quite bewilderingly, as far as any of the foreign residents whom I know are concerned) and this slap-on-the-back perspective might usefully be applied.

  2.  I do have one substantial point to add, as regards Turkish students' education at British universities. At present, they have to pay full-whack fees, which, with living costs, are apparently higher even than in the USA. Greek or Portuguese students attend British universities at far lower expense, along the same lines as the locals. We have been quite good with scholarships, but not nearly as good as the Americans (or the French). I believe I have the support of the Anglo-Turkish chamber of commerce in saying that the indirect benefit of students' coming to this country is very great. Certainly, in my own experience, Turkish students have flourished here, and, in terms of anchoring Turkey firmly to the West, their presence is a good thing. The London School of Economics does a good job, and friends of mine there have been complimentary about their Turkish students, especially the girls.

  3.  It is unfortunately true that the present visa business makes enemies for us. The system does seem to be unnecessarily harsh and humiliating. Turks from all walks of life dread it, and horror-stories abound (I have a very distinguished colleague at Bilkent, the dean of Ottoman history, an octogenarian, who just refuses invitations of lecture to the UK). I do my best to defend it—that we do not have identity cards and therefore have to defend the points of entrance etc—but it does seem to be the case that people anxious only to chase a girlfriend, or earn a bit of money and then go home have to attempt the asylum seeking route. One of my brightest former students interprets Turkish in Glasgow and she is full of stories as to how people pass themselves off (unwillingly) as persecuted Kurds.

  [Professor Norman Stone was formerly Professor of Modern History, Oxford, and is currently Director of the Turkish-Russian Institute, Bilkent University, Ankara].

Professor Norman Stone

January 2002

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