Young Leaders´ Forums
Germany Meets Turkey
(Left to right): Çisel İleri, Elif Gönençer, Christina Bache Fidan, Çiğdem İpek, Judith Zindel, Carel Mohn, Emre Gürleyik, Gunnar Berkemeier, Hon. Amb. Eckart Cuntz, Şuhnaz Yılmaz, Ferhan Alesi, Necdet Yıldız, Jens Loschwitz, Matthias Bär, Nils Gerhardt, Andre Lieber, Friedrich Rojahn, Benjamin Didszuweit, Andrea Schuessler, Mark Donfried, Ercan Atak
Report of Day 1
Ankara: The German Embassy and the Turkish Media
Having arrived in Ankara the night before, Young Leaders gathered Monday morning for the first full day of the 2008 Study Tour of the network Germany Meets Turkey–A Forum for Young Leaders. Twelve Young Leaders from Turkey and twelve Young Leaders from Germany met each other and began to prepare for the busy week ahead. Then they set off for the German embassy for a tour and a meeting with Hon. Dr. Eckhart Cuntz, the ambassador.
Assessing the German-Turkish Relationship
In his presentation ambassador Dr. Eckhart Cuntz emphasized that Germany and Turkey are linked as no other two countries are. Four million people of Turkish origin have lived in Germany at some point and three million people in Germany are currently of Turkish origin or have Turkish relatives. Strengthening the links between the two is thus vital for both. The very high amount of investments and business conducted by Germans in Turkey is facilitated by cultural links, for instance, a knowledge of the German language. Because cultural investments pay back in multiples, the German Foreign Ministry has a growing budget for cultural exchange and also supports the Ernst Reuter Initiative, which supports German-Turkish programs such as “Germany Meets Turkey."
The ambassador spoke of recent efforts to improve cultural relations between the countries, including bringing writers to travel to the Frankfurt Book Fair as well as German culture weeks in Turkey called “Fresh Breeze." Another initiative of the embassy is "Junggenç" a youth orchestra including German and Turkish musicians. In general, however, the Ambassador said that there is a great lack of understanding between us neighbours which often leads to misunderstandings. The two countries also compete for experts and brains. The solution to that is to share knowledge. Germany provides scholarships on different levels (DAAD, Goethe Institute) and in Turkey, there is a long tradition of schools teaching either in German or with German as a first language.
A new development is the common project of a German-Turkish University in Istanbul. The agreement of the two foreign ministers is just about to be ratified by the Turkish side and the university will open with programs in engineering, economics and cultural science in 2009. German Universities, meanwhile, have Turkish studies as a subject. What is needed, argued Amb. Cuntz, are more initiatives on the intermediate level between schools and universities such as "dual education" and “Fachhochschulen”, which could play a vital role in fighting the lack of qualified labour (“Fachkräftemangel”) in Germany.
Regarding the EU accession of Turkey, the Ambassador repeated the statement of Chancellor Angela Merkel: "pacta sunt servanda / treaties must be fulfilled". Therefore, the negotiations continue and depend on the developments in Turkey. The transformation of laws also contains big challenges for sensitive issues such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion and and democratization of parties. Turkey faced many crises within the state and it needs to stabilise to establish basic confidence in insitutions, independence of judiciary, women's rights, etc. Young Leaders discussed with the ambassador whether the EU is ready for further englargement.
Regarding international security the recent initiatives of Turkey were highly welcomed by the ambassador, for instance, its firm stand on the Iranian nuclear program or the offer to be a platform of dialogue as a response to the crisis in Georgia. Tukey is surrounded by countries in crisis and if it was not a stabilizing factor in the region, Amb. Cuntz said, these problems would also affect Germans.
After the ambassador's detailed discussion, Mark Donfried, Director and Founder of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, gave a speech on the meaning of cultural diplomacy. It is more than propaganda to like your country, there is a trend that civil society gets more actively involved and is the center on the issues of dialogue, understanding and trust. Donfried analyzed case studies and intends not to reinvent but help, emphasize and sustain the concept of cultural diplomacy. He wants to bring together citizens together via multipliers with the goal of a sustainable network. He said the network members of GMT have to choose projects themselves, e.g. linking schools or organizing public events with the help of the organizers' contacts. [Reported by Patricia Schneider]
Turkish and German Media Roundtable
That afternoon, Young Leaders visited the mausoleum to Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Back at the hotel, they were ready for a media roundtable on "The Role of the Media in EU-Turkey Relations."
Barçın Yınanç, Managing Editor at Turkish Daily News (Doğan Group), started the panel with a statement on the current state of affairs in the Turkish media. She mentioned the power and influence of the big Turkish media groups, amongst them the Doğan Media Group. Yınanç also referred to the rising influence of the "religious press" in Turkey. She pointed out that the ruling AK Party started to acquire TV channels and newspapers after the economic crisis media companies struggled with in 2002, trying to create a press to influence public opinion. "But I have my doubts to what degree the public really trusts newspapers," she said. "I don't deny the importance of the press but the media is not the only tool people use to make up their opinion."
Peter Althammer started reporting from Istanbul for ARD German Public Television in spring 2005. Althammer said in his prepared statement for GMT's media panel that Turkey's accession process to the European Union is viewed completely differently in the two countries. According to Althammer, the German public is likely to be more frightened of Turkey joining the European Union. But he also noticed "many political changes inside Turkey" in the last three years, affecting the initial enthusiasm for EU membership within Turkey. Referring to "2013" and "full membership," Althammer said that "the next frustration is on the agenda". Althammer questioned whether Turkey is ready to give state sovereignty to Brussels, mentioning that 50 percent of laws of EU member states are made or influenced in Brussels. Althammer also pointed to the lack of deep analysis of Turkey's situation with or without Turkey.
"I wish we could join 2013. It's for the good of Turkey," Yınanç told GMT participants." Yınanç assessed Turkey's accession process to the European Union as "a way to make Turkey more democratic."
"Most of the blame is on the European Union," said Yınanç, adding, "We're fully committed." Referring to article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, Yinance said that "the AKP has come to its democratic limits."
In addition, Yınanç said at the GMT panel that "Turkish media is not giving the message that Turkish citizens have a better life because of EU reforms." She also judged the AKP's information policy towards journalists as not very transparent. "It's harder and harder to find out what's going on behind the doors", she said.
During GMT's media panel, Yınanç pointed out that the media plays a crucial role in strengthening civil society, especially in more rural areas outside of Turkey's media capital Istanbul and the political capital Ankara. [Reported by Andrea Schuessler]
Report of Day 2
Ankara: Turkish Parliament and Politics
Young Leaders started the day with an icebreaker game to get to know each other better and subsequently split up into four Turkish-German working groups, each one dedicated to different topic: (1) political systems, (2) political parties, (3) economic and social systems, and (4) culture. The first working group (Çisel, Andrea, Patricia, Gunnar and Burcu) provided the group with an overview of the political systems, explaining both the basic aspects of the respective constitutions as well as the functioning of the constitutional organs. Whereas Turkey presents itself as a centralized state with a strict top-down approach (e.g. governors are appointed by the central government in Ankara), Germany’s political system is based on a federal state with very strong and vocal regional and local actors (e.g. the 16 "Länder"). The second working group (Elif, Ömer, Benjamin, Judith and Jens) continued with an in-depth discussion of the two countries’ election systems and main political parties. Turkish parties seem to depend quite heavily on their leadership. In fact, they often rise and decline in sync with their party leaders. As a result, the Turkish party system as a whole is characterized by a high volatility and parties’ names frequently change. On the contrary, German parties seem to be primarily based on ideologies. Three of the five parties currently represented in the German Parliament can trace their historical roots back to the beginning of (West-) Germany as a Federal State after World War II in 1949. As a result, it is probably easier to take part in the inner-party process in Germany than in Turkey. The third group (Aydan, Emre, Zafer, Carel, FriedRich, and Nils) focused their presentation on Turkey’s and Germany’s economic and social systems. Among other facts, Young Leaders learned about health care, employment, as well as annual GDP per capita rates (Turkey: 8.7T US$ / Germany: 28T EUR). In a nutshell, the Turkish society is driven and shaped by an extremely young population with an average age below 30 years. On the other hand, life expectancy in Turkey stagnates at 65 years compared to 70 years in Germany. The fourth group (Ferhan, Antje, Çiğdem, Şuhnaz, Ercan and Andre) went ahead to showcase similarities and differences in both countries’ cultural life and people’s habits/hobbies (they called it “hobits”). The whole GMT-group interacted in debating concepts such as “Gartenzwerg”, “Stammtisch”, “Kebab”, Turkish hospitality, food & drinks, and “talky culture”.
Visit to the Turkish Grand National Assembly
With all this knowledge from the morning session, Young Leaders went on to visit the Turkish “meclis” (the Turkish Parliament) in the centre of Ankara. After a brief tour through the building they were able to sit in and listen to a plenary session. At first glance, the German participants got the impression that the procedures and structures were quite similar to those at the German Federal Parliament in Berlin. We then spent the rest of the afternoon in talks with members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, one party at a time. We first spoke to Mr. Öymen (former Turkish ambassador to Germany) from the CHP followed by Mr. Ünal and Mr. Kınıklıoğlu (both AKP), Mr. Türk and Ms Tuncel (both DTP), and Mr. Toskay and Mr. Ergun (both MHP). All introductory statements were followed up by prolonged Q&A sessions. Most of the MPs we spoke to stand out in part of their strong links to Germany/Europe and the USA. For instance, Mr. Ünal completed a doctorate at the FU Berlin and Mr. Kınıklıoğlu was born in Duisburg and previously worked for the German Marshall Fund of the US in Ankara. The discussion heated up when the DTP-representatives expressed their support for the rights of Kurdish people and the right-wing MHP-representatives spoke out on terrorism issues. However, at the end of the day, all of them seemed to be in favor of Turkey becoming a full member of the European Union. Mr. Öymen for example stressed that the Turks are members of the European civilization and share the same values. In line with Mr. Ünal (who spoke partly in German), he denounced the concept of a “privileged partnership” put forward by some European partners.
Meeting with the Turkish Business Community
This day was really packed and from the “meclis” Young Leaders drove directly to a meeting with young Turkish entrepreneurs from an association named ‘Serbest Girişimler Derneği’. During a joint dinner there were plenty of opportunities to interact and talk about business life and culture in Germany and Turkey. Emre delivered a fantastic speech about his work and gave an detailed overview of small and medium enterprises in Turkey. FriedRich, himself the founder of two German SMEs, complemented this with personal insights on entrepreneurship in Germany.
Back in the hotel, some participants were still in the mood for further political debate. Jörg Dehnert from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation kindly offered to present his personal comments and assessment of Turkish politics and the statements we heard in the afternoon. This group work finally ended at around 3 a.m. [Reported by Çiğdem İpek, Andre Lieber, and Jens Loschwitz]
Report of Day 3
Ankara to Istanbul: Crossing Turkey to Discuss the EU
Young Leaders arose only hours later to take the six-hour bus ride from Turkey's capital, Ankara, to Turkey's cultural and population center, Istanbul. The city of Istanbul, Europe's most populous city, houses more than 12 million inhabitants, in addition to several million tourists and seasonal workers, and stretches over an area of about 100 kilometers. During the 25 years between 1980 and 2005, the population of the metropolis more than tripled. Roughly 70 percent of all İstanbullus live in the European section and approximately 30 percent in the Asian section of the world’s only transcontinental metropolis.
After a brief freshen-up at their new hotel, Young Leaders went downtown to the historic German consulate in the Gümüşsuyu district of Istanbul for a tour and meeting with the German Consul General, Matthias von Kummer. At the Consulate, Young Leaders sat down with the Turkey-EU Observatory, a roundtable organized in conjunction with the Istanbul Policy Center at Sabancı University. Three professors gave brief remarks and then opened the floor to discussion. First was Dr. Ayhan Kaya, lecturer at the Department of International Relations and head of the Centers for Migration Research and European Studies at Istanbul Bilgi University. Second spoke Dr. Refik Erzan, a professor in the department of Economics at Boğaziçi University, where he teaches courses on microeconomics and EU–Turkey relations. Finally, Dr. Ahmet O. Evin shared his opinions on the matter. He is a member of executive committee at the Istanbul Policy Center and the founding dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Sabancı University.
Comments were generally positive about Turkey's prospects for EU membership. In particular, speakers emphasized that there was no other choice for Turkey--no other logical partners or bloc of countries in Turkey's region offered as much opportunities as an alternative to the European Union. Not all was positive, however, as speakers emphasized the need to keep up the steam of previous years. They suggested the government was not as motivated to follow through with key EU reforms as it had been in years past. Specifically, they argued that the Turkish government has done very little to stem the decline of Turkish public opinion in favor of the European Union and EU membership.
Report of Day 4
Istanbul: Turkish-German Business Relations
Young Leaders spent the fourth full day of Study Tour learning about the economic relations between Germany and Turkey. Germany is Turkey‘s most important trading partner. More than 11 percent of Turkey’s exports are purchased in Germany and more than 10 percent of what Turkey imports comes from Germany. Germans also make up the largest group of visitors to Turkey. Nearly 4.15 million German tourists visited Turkey in 2007. At the same time, Turkey is also an important business partner for Germany. There are many German firms doing business with Turkey, with approximately 2,300 German enterprises currently represented there. Most of the foreign companies that have made direct investments in Turkey are German. In recent years, the number of German companies and Turkish companies with German capital interest has risen to over 3,100. Since 1980, Germans have invested more than $5.8 billion in Turkish enterprises.
Young Leaders travelled to Istanbul's financial center Levent to attend a conference organized with the help of DEIK. The Dış Ekonomik İlişkiler Kurulu (Foreign Economic Relations Board, DEİK) is a private-sector organization which aims to support Turkish businesses in their efforts to establish interests and contacts abroad. Founded in 1988, DEİK organizes bilateral councils between Turkish and foreign business associations, maintains contacts with worldwide economic institutions, and organizes seminars and forums around the world where the Turkish and international business community can discuss common issues.
The conference was entitled “German-Turkish Economic Relations: From the Past to the Future” and was attended by some of Turkey's top businessmen and -women. Opening remarks were given by both Geramny's consul general in Istanbul, Matthias von Kummer, and Ferit Şahenk, chairman of Turkey´s Doğuş Holding conglomerate and one of the country’s wealthiest individuals.
The conference's first panel discussed the historic and future development of Turkish-German relations from the perspective of three key German and Turkish business leaders. First, Dieter Christoph Urban has been a member of the Koç Holding Board of Directors since 2005. Urban served as Director of Administration and later Director of Corporate Planning for the Treuhand East Germany Privatization Association. Second, Hermann Butz is CEO of Bosch Sanayi Ticaret, one of Turkey's fastest-growing companies. Auto and appliance manufacturer Bosch's Turkey branch has experienced an average growth rate of 17 percent over the last five years and the company has invested 700 million euros in the country over the same period. The 2007 value of Bosch Turkey's exports reached 1 billion euros, an increase of 23 percent over 2006. Finally, Levent Nart is a Turkish entrepreneur who was among the first to establish an insurance brokerage firm in the country. Nart founded his own company, NART Insurance and Reassurance Brokering, in 1999 after working in leading positions at several international insurance firms in Germany and Turkey.
A second panel discussed opportunities for cooperation among specific economic sectors between Germany and Turkey. Four sectors were represented. First spoke Emir Ali Bilaloğlu, who served as general manager for the Audi and Porsche brands at Turkey's Doğuş Otomotiv and became the company’s CEO in June 2007. Ersin Akyüz, the CEO and an executive member of the board of directors at Deutsche Bank Turkey, represented the financial sector. Third, Murat Akyüz spoke on the chemical and materials sector. He is chairman of Reach Global Services, a new company which aims to assist Turkish businesses exporting chemicals, metals, and other products to other countries Europe. Finally, Cenk Pala spoke on behalf of the energy sector. Pala is the head of Gas Supply Turkey at E-ON Holding.
Report of Day 5
Istanbul: Civil Society in Turkey
In the morning, the bus took Young Leaders from the Nippon Hotel to the impressive buildings of Sabancı Holding. Following welcoming remarks by Christina Bache Fidan and Mark Donfried, participants had the opportunity to listen to an impressive array of speakers in two panel sessions on civil society in Turkey.
During the first panel session, Young Leaders had the pleasure of sharing in Amb. Volkan Vural’s thoughts on the evolution of civil society in Turkey, followed by Prof. Ersin Kalaycıoğlu and ICD’s own Mark Donfried.
Amb. Vural outlined how restrictions on civil society in the 1980s in particular had shaped public perception of private associations, making membership almost a “dirty word”. More recently, however, this has changed substantially, with Turkey’s EU accession process as a key driver. EU sponsorship of select private organizations has contributed to this process, although challenges remain: for instance, Turkish civil culture still does not differentiate sufficiently between civil society and interest groups, which continue to be treated almost synonymously. Amb. Vural also stressed that going forward, a stronger dialogue is needed with business and political groups in Germany to highlight the benefits to German citizens. of Turkey’s EU membership. As Amb. Vural described it, Turkey’s EU membership will create strong economic benefits to EU citizens, thanks to the vibrancy of the Turkish economy, which will bring new dynamism to the EU’s economic development. However, in Germany as in the rest of the EU, citizens do not widely appreciate this ‘net positive contribution’. Finally, Amb. Vural called for joint engagement by Turkey and Germany to bring foster stability in the Caucasus.
Prof. Kalaycıoğlu highlighted that Turkish civil society dated back to 1852, originally in the form of clandestine interest groups, shaping public suspicion of such activities. Traditionally, civil society organizations have been perceived as potentially heinous and hazardous, out to undermine public order, welfare and the State. This attitude has noticeably softened – the Turkish state now takes a neutral position on NGOs active in social or market-related areas. Such activities are now tolerated, although little is done to promote civil activism. Turkish civil society also remains weak due to a lack of interest by the general public: public engagement has remained constant at only about 7% of the Turkish population over the last 18 years.
Mark questioned how much Governments could do in practice to actively promote the emergence of a strong civil society. Mark pointed at the Japanese Government, which in the 1970s embarked on a top-down programme to promote civil engagement, with questionable results. Highlighting experiences in Eastern Europe, where civil society is still predominantly framed as opposition to the Government, Mark also raised the importance of using an appropriate definition for the term and how the definition itself has changed over time and space. Mark stressed that in itself, civil society is a neutral term describing a social phenomenon, rather than a particular agenda. Therefore, Mark proposed to define civil society as initiatives by the citizens, for the citizens. Using “the flashlight analogy” he highlighted the difficulty of grasping a more comprehensive picture concerning civil society. Going forward, Mark saw significant challenges for Turkish civil society in its enduring fragmentation, with related groups often unaware of the others’ existence and activities. Events connecting civil activist groups are rare, contributing to this effect.
Speakers at the second panel were Aycan Akdeniz, manager of the Democracy, Human Rights and Civil society sector at the European Commission Delegation to Turkey; Filiz Bikmen, the Executive Director of TUSEV; Nurdan Şahin, general manager of the Educational Volunteers Foundation of Turkey; and Alya Göksel, CEO and vice-chair of the Board of Directors of ACEV. Whereas the first panel had focused largely on historical trends and academic frameworks, the second panel shared their personal experiences and perspectives as civil society practitioners.
Aycan Akdeniz highlighted that good governance represented a “moving target”. Civil society organizations had played a very active role in the run-up to October 2005, when EU accession negotiations with Turkey were initiated. During this time, civil activism gained legitimacy, visibility and effectiveness; human rights and particularly women’s rights NGOs were very successful in advocating reform. Following a subsequent lull in civil activism, civil society in Turkey is showing signs of revival in 2008. An example is the participation of NGOs in the debate on the new constitution, and NGOs are increasing in number, albeit not in depth; financial resources, in particular, remain weak. As a result, Turkish civil society organizations are only responding to the political agenda, without setting it.
Filiz Bikmen charted the evolution of civil society in Turkey since the Ottoman period, and gave an outlook on their likely future evolution. Her presentation stressed the importance of family foundations to Turkish civil society, and the foundations’ progressive evolution from directly managing civil society activities (“operational”) to more of a grant-making role. She also shared the results of a comprehensive study with the participants assessing the performance of the Turkish civil society in terms of its structure, environment, values and impact and displayed the Turkish civil society diamond in the end.
Nurdan Şahin raised the issue that participation rests on high levels of generalized trust, which largely do not yet exist in Turkey. As research shows, social capital indicators remain weak in Turkey, with most Turks reporting not trusting anyone outside their immediate family. Nurdan Şahin's personal impression, however, was that things appeared to be slowly improving in Turkey.
Alya Göksel cautioned that the panel did not reflect Turkish civil society overall, due to the dominance of a small, but very powerful group of family-sponsored foundations on the panel. While these represent the lion’s share of Turkish civil society funding, they account for only a small percentage of civil society bodies overall.
Following Mark’s closing remarks, the GMT participants split into three working groups to explore how Turkish civil society could be strengthened.
One group explored opportunities for companies to strengthen civil society: first by leading from within, acting responsibly towards employees and encouraging their participation; secondly, by engaging in external activities such as tipping lunches and CSR activities.
The second group identified opportunities within academia, using educational ambassadors to promote activities by others, for instance by ‘training the trainers’ and promoting voluntary work and learning opportunities through internships and mentoring. The second group, used the “Civil Society Diamond” framework, introduced earlier in the discussions to come up with creative projects concerning enhancement of civil society activities in terms of structure, environment, common values and impact. In the meantime, Ercan was really busy with educating the whole group (while he was not conducting intercultural communication skills with adjacent teams) regarding their signature skills.
The third group shared, and then reflected on, personal experiences that had led to GMT participants engaging in civil activism. In all cases, we found that participants first experiences of civil society involvement had been made at an early age, through pre-organised events such as church groups (in Germany), sports, the boy scouts, etc. Later, these experiences prompted personal initiatives during participants’ high school and university years. On this basis, the third group advocated teaching and encouraging civil activism starting as early as during kindergarten, but focusing on primary school and high school.
In line with the theme of cross- cultural exchange and conflict management, the day also saw an impromptu display of arm-wrestling skills by Judith “the Chinese dragon” and “Anatolian tiger” Emre. Judith impressed the group with her skilful display of double-handed arm-wrestling techniques and her gift for intercultural communication, enlisting Ercan’s help in finally beating the seemingly indefatigable Emre.
Exhausted from these exciting but tiring activities, the group retired to local shopping center Kanyon for a spell of retail therapy, visits to a hair stylist, and a hard-earned coffee break. Rejuvenated, the group closed the day with a meal in floating restaurant Suada, enjoying stunning moonlit views over the Bosporus. [Reported by Gunnar Berkemeier]
Report of Day 6
Istanbul: Wrapping up Study Tour 2008
Young Leaders woke up for their final full day of Study Tour 2008 and travelled to the headquarters of GMT's partner, the Istanbul Policy Center, in Istanbul's Karaköy district. The Istanbul Policy Center, located at Sabancı University, was founded with a view to improve the quality and effectiveness of public policymaking in Turkey and the region. The Center aims at establishing a network of cooperation with universities, think-tanks, and other similar research institutions both in Turkey and abroad in order to engage broad participation of distinguished thinkers, scholars, experts, and practitioners to produce independent research as well as generate policy recommendations on issues of current relevance and significance.
Once there, Young Leaders discussed the future course of action. How would Young Leaders carry on the spirit of improving cultural diplomacy between the two countries beyond what they learned on the 2008 Study Tour?
The answer: Leadership Initiatives. Participants of GMT are expected to take a leading role in fostering cultural diplomacy between Germany and Turkey throughout their lives and are encouraged to develop short-term Leadership Initiatives which can help reach these goals. These independently initiated and developed projects provide a means by which long-term connections between the network participants of GMT are maintained. They range from the publication of a program newsletter, the organization of additional bilateral conferences and events and designing PR materials for GMT to co-organizing the study tour itself. This allows young leaders to contribute to the program by utilizing their own specialization.
Participants took part in a facilitated session to identify specific challenges facing German-Turkish relations and explore ways to promote constructive dialogue between the two countries. During the plenary, participants were presented with the guiding question as a way to spark ideas: "What leadership initiatives would you like to implement/be a part of as a way to strengthen/deepen German-Turkish relations?" Participants then met in their respective working groups and discussed ways to implement their ideas. After the completion of the working groups, participants shared their results, coming up with an impressive list of over seventy-five diverse but feasible ideas for future projects.
The afternoon and evening were set aside for cultural activities, including a personal introduction to the Topkapı Palace by the museum's director, Dr. İlber Ortaylı. Topkapı Palace, a huge complex of imperial buildings and courtyards constructed over the course of four centuries, was the primary residence of the Ottoman monarchs until the nineteenth century. Mehmet II (the Conqueror) built the first stage of Topkapı palace shortly after the conquest in 1453 and lived here until his death. Subsequent sultans lived here until 1839, when the Ottoman royal family moved to palaces built in the neo-baroque style on the shores of the Bosphorus.
Finally reaching the end of Study Tour 2008, participants and organizers set sail on a boat tour and dinner of the Bosporus, the world's narrowest straight and one of its busiest waterways. Twinkling lights, reflected in the yakamoz ("phosphorescence") of the waters, passed by as Young Leaders and organizers alike enjoyed a Turkish grill and relaxed Turkish-style: passing around the "nargile" and learning how to play "tavla". Young Leaders ended the night in Istanbul, tired by the journey but excited by the prospects of promoting cultural diplomacy upon their return home tomorrow.