Geopolitics

Turkey's Erdogan On Campaign Trail - In Vienna

Sure to be the leading candidate in August's first-ever direct election of Turkey's president, the current prime minister is touring Europe to woo Turks living abroad. Not all are convinced.

Mixed reactions indeed
Mixed reactions indeed
Elisalex Henckel

VIENNA Things are quiet in downtown Vienna on this Thursday afternoon. Catholic Austria is celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi, and everybody else is out enjoying the fine weather. But the scheduled visit of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has the police lined up on the Ringstrasse because they’re expecting anti-Erdogan demonstrations.

Some protesters have already gathered near the Praterstern railroad station. The Turkish and Austrian leftists, Kurds, Alevites and Armenians form a colorful group, but there are hardly 10,000 of them, as announced — more like 2,000. They wave national flags, flags bearing the likenesses of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan or Turkish Communists, and carry placards with portraits of victims of the Gezi Park protests and the Soma mine disaster.

“The sheer breadth of our alliance shows on how many levels Erdogan’s policies have failed,” a spokeswoman for the democratic alliance against Erdogan says from the stage. “Erdogan get out of Vienna” is written in English on a banner behind her. Other speakers call Erdogan a liar, a criminal, a murderer.

A few kilometers outside the city, in front of an ice rink on the other side of the Danube, the picture is more homogenous. People here are waving only one kind of flag: a star and half-moon on a red background, the national flag of Turkey. A couple of men are prone on the ground, praying. Near them, picnicking, are some old women wearing head scarves. T-shirts with a portrait of Erdogan emblazend on them are being sold out of a stretch limousine. Some of the T-shirts read “Sultan of the World” under the prime minister's image.

Inside, in the hall, more people bear more Turkish flags. They are waving them in time to a pop song with a refrain that repeats the name of today’s star guest: “Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan.” His impending appearance also has his supporters breaking out in frenetic cheers every few minutes. “Erdogan is the only leadership figure we have,” a floor leader calls from the stage. When he mentions the Gezi Park protests, the cheers turn to boos.

When the “Sultan of the World” finally walks into the hall, followers throw roses in his path. Literally. He waves to the crowd, greets the dignitaries in the first row, then sits down next to his wife, who is veiled in black.

“Turkey is proud of you,” the 7,000 people in the hall cry out two, three, four times. First, the moderator greets the guest of honor. Then Abdurrahman Karayazili, head of the Vienna branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), takes the floor. His organization invited “private citizen” Erdogan to participate in the 10th anniversary of its founding. The UETD is considered the foreign arm of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), although Karayazili vehemently denies this. He also denies that Erdogan's trip to Vienna — and travels to Cologne in late May and an impending trip to Lyon — are actually meant to scare up votes among Turks living abroad for the presidential elections coming up in August.

The “sultan” speaks

Ninety minutes later than scheduled, the Turkish prime minister appears on stage. He thanks Austria for its hospitality. He condemns the “campaign” that preceded his appearance in Cologne. He says he does not interfere with German or Austrian domestic politics. “My only goal is you!”

He describes how well the “new Turkey” has emerged through the crisis, and says that nobody should fear Turkey. He mentions the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Then he invokes Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire whose territorial conquests in Europe were checked by the Siege of Vienna in 1529. “We are all his grandchildren,” Erdogan shouts amid public cheers.

At the high point of the speech, Erdogan launches into his familiar credo, “Assimilation no, integration yes!” and then calls on his audience to vote in August. He closes with the words, “We are all brothers and sisters.” The crowd waves their flags one last time, then leaves the hall to cheer the motorcade they assume is driving Erdogan away.

Foreign minister meetup

Less than 100 meters from here, the bright flags of the anti-Erdogan protesters come into view. Their numbers reportedly reached 6,000 before they left Praterstern and headed for the ice rink. The march across the Danube bridge is relatively peaceful. So that things stay that way, the police have barricaded the street between Erdogan’s friends and Erdogan’s enemies. The mood turns tense.

By now German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has arrived in the inner city. His Austrian counterpart Sebastian Kurz met him at the airport and intended — while Erdogan was being cheered at the ice rink — to speak with him about Ukraine and Russia, about Putin’s visit to Vienna next week, and perhaps too about the German government’s toll plans.

Steinmeier makes a passing reference to Turkey in the context of Iraq. “We are interested in knowing if Turkey plays a role in the conflict and, if so, what role,” he says. He will be meeting the next day with Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu. Turkish officials had said they were examining the requirements for military intervention against Islamists in Iraq after they took 80 Turkish citizens hostage.

All governments in the region must help deescalate the situation, Steinmeier warns. Erdogan once perceived Turkey’s role in the Middle East as the great problem solver, and yet his government tolerated Islamists in the border area between Syria and Turkey — and in so doing contributed to strengthening their position.

The two foreign ministers intend to spend their evening at a Heuriger (wine tavern) in Grinzing, the wine country within city bounds. “Just the two of them,” as a spokesperson makes clear. “Private citizen” Erdogan will be meeting with the Austrian foreign minister the next day and “on neutral ground.”

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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