— The Erimtan Angle —

Remembering Greg Palast’s 2010 report on BP in Azerbaijan,[1] here is Human Rights Watch’s take on the Azeri record with regard to the imminent Eurovision Song Contest: ‘This Human Rights Watch video shows why the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) should speak out againstAzerbaijan’s appalling record on freedom of expression in the lead-up to the Eurovision Song Contest. The EBU declined to show the video at a workshop about media rights inAzerbaijan it organized onMay 2, 2012, citing technical reasons. The EBU is an association of public broadcasters that oversees the Eurovision Song Contest (2 May 2012)’.

For one thing, the mere fact that the country is now being led by President Ilham Aliyev, whose main qualification is constituted by the fact that he is the son of Haydar Aliyev, seems like an anomaly in this 21st century. Azerbaijan is a Turkic nation state, that has the distinction of being the only Shi’ite body inside the Sunni lands of Turkic Islam. According to World Bank data, in 2010 the Azeri population counted about 9 million, but the majority of the Azeri population seems unaffected by the country’s revived oil wealth. Throughout the Cold War, Azerbaijan’s oil wealth in the Caspian was largely off the world’s radar, in spite of the fact that in the ‘19th century . . . the Rothschilds and the brothers of dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel turned Baku into a world oil center capable of challenging John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil for control of Europe’s kerosene markets’.[2]  But now that theSoviet Union has been securely confined to the dustbin of history and the free market rules supreme, Azeri oil wealth has become universally well-known once again.Azerbaijan’s newly rediscovered oil potential might also account for the fact that the country nowadays can partake in such “European” pastimes as the Eurovision Song Contest.

For decades, Azerbaijan’s western neighbour Turkeyhas been knocking on the EU’s front door.[3]  Many people inEurope openly question whetherTurkey is really part of Europe . . . albeit that Turkey’s mostly awful songs have for years been competing in the Eurovision. And didn’t Georgia’s “new” leader Saakashvili talk about joining the EU some time ago???

In fact, the EU-propaganda publication EurActiv reported last year that “Georgia remains committed to joining the European Union, said President Mikheil Saakashvili in an exclusive interview with EurActiv Poland. In a conciliatory gesture towards Moscow, the Georgian leader argued that closer ties between his country and the EU could also pave the way for more integration between Russia and the 27-nation bloc”.[4]  But, is Turkey really part of Europe???  Is the EU a Christian club managed by bankers???  Does Goldman-Sachs rule the world???  Saakashvili himself did not mince any words: “what is most important is that we have embarked on our path to the European Union. In carrying out reforms, we want Georgia to become a better candidate for membership. We do not have this status yet, but it is apparently possible in the future. This is a significant improvement”.[5]

But let’s go back to the Eurovision in Azerbaijan: ‘Eurovision is everywhere in Baku, the easternmost city to host the annual song contest, as the Azerbaijani capital seeks to present a glitzy and sparkling front to the world for its biggest ever event. The Eurovision symbol is emblazoned on the city’s new fleet of London-style cabs, flashes on video screens on metro platforms and even goes up in lights on LCD displays on skyscrapers overlooking the Caspian Sea. Locals strolling along the seaside promenade proudly point out to sea to the city’s newest landmark: the Crystal Hall, built at high speed to host the contest. Lit up with flashing lights, it stands on a pier with the sea on both sides, lined with flowers that workers were still putting in place on Tuesday evening [, 22 May] as guests dressed up to the nines arrived for the semi-finals. It’s best to ignore the sulphurous smell wafting off the water, the legacy of years of heavy pollution into the Caspian Sea. Also disguised by the shiny buildings are the controversies that have marred the contest, with activists accusing Azerbaijanof human rights violations and a bitter diplomatic row building with its neighbour Iran. Locals instead prefer to see the competition as a chance to put their city — which already boasts fine fin-de-siecle architecture and an enchanting old town — firmly on the European map’, as reported by AFP.[6]

On the other hand, is Turkey really part of Europe???  The main difference between Turkey and its eastern neighbour is oil . . . But Turkey is also doing its bit, and continues to push for the realisation of Nabucco, in spite of Russian opposition and the recent withdrawal of BP, arguably to Russian pressure and the company’s desire not to jeopardise its chances of cashing in on the future rewards the arctic region is projected to yield. But where there is a will, there is Turkey’s best friend, as voiced by US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland: “We strongly support Nabucco. We think it’s a very important project. It’s going to bring energy diversification on both sides and market diversification. I hadn’t seen the BP announcement, but as you know, there’s been a lot of company interest as well in Nabucco”.[7]  In other words, the interpersonal relations between Tayyip Erdoğan and Barrack Obama have not been futile. The U.S. clearly supports Turkey’s new pseudo-Ottoman programme, as a stable Turkey could very well become another rock for America to build its renewed bridges into the Arab world, following the recent “spring weather”.

[1] Cfr. “RT- The Big Picture: BP, Azerbaijan, Oil and Gas Disasters, & Corruption” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (24 December 2012). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/rt-the-big-picture-bp-azerbaijan-gulf-of-mexico-oil-and-gas-disastersbp-azerbaijan-gulf-of-mexico-oil-and-gas-disasters/.

[2] Dan Morgan and David B. Ottaway, “Page Two. Grasping the Potential” The Washington Post  (04 October 1998). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/europe/caspian100498b.htm.

[3] “Turkey and the EU, 1959 — 2011” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (31 August 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/turkey-and-the-eu-1959-2011/.

[4] “Saakashvili: Georgia ‘should never leave path’ of EU integration” EurActiv (09 November 2011). http://www.euractiv.com/europes-east/saakashvili-georgia-leave-path-eu-integration-interview-508800.

[5] “Saakashvili:Georgia ‘should never leave path’ of EU integration”.

[7] “US Firmly Backing Nabucco Pipeline despite BP Criticism” Novinite (26 May 2012). http://www.novinite.com/view_news.php?id=139704.


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