EXCERPT: “Most energy companies are close to the government and the judiciary is not always independent.“
FREE TRANSLATION OF A DEUTSCHE WELLE* (DW) ARTICLE
Turkey: New energy at any cost?
A new wind farm is to be built on the Turkish Aegean coast – with technical support from Germany. And at the expense of the environment, criticize the local residents. Even legal experts have their doubts.
Foreign investors see profitable business opportunities in Turkey. In 2013 alone, 13 billion US dollars flowed into the country. The Turkish energy market, notably, is one of the fastest growing in the world. The website of the Turkish government promotes the booming energy sector: “Invest in Turkey”, it says. By 2023 around 120 billion dollars will be invested in the energy market – twice as much as in the past decade.
In addition to the two planned nuclear plants, the country will increasingly rely on renewable energy. Investors from Europe, in particular, are expected to participate with their modern technologies in wind, solar and hydropower projects. These businesses are worth millions in Turkey, but they are associated with undemocratic practices: lack of transparency, no citizen participation, disregard of conservation and of decisions of the judiciary.
“The construction of the Wind turbine project is not right”
An ugly scenario has been played out for months on the Turkish peninsula of Cesme. The project named ABK Cesme RES (ABK Cesme wind energy production plant) has been launched in January 2014 by the Turkish energy company ABK, to construct a wind farm in the popular resort of Cesme on the Turkish Aegean coast. The German company Nordex, headquartered in Hamburg, provides a total of six 3MW wind turbines.
However, local residents are adamantly opposed to the project, like 30-year-old Esen Kabadayi. “Suddenly, a bulldozer appeared and began to build a road on our land,” said the environmental scientist from Izmir when talking to us. No warning of any kind or any expropriation letter has been received by her family, she said. “We are still in possession of the property deed, yet the plot is being built on. It has nearly 4000 square meters, and more than 800 square meters are affected by the construction, and our land is now divided into two parts …. by a road to the future turbines,” said the environmental activist indignantly. Kabadayi qualifies the progressing construction work as “illegal”. Also because the area is a nature reserve, and cannot or must not be built on.
The 45-year-old native of Sweden, Madeleine Kura, spent months in legal action against the construction of the project. Together with her husband, she has been owning for over 20 years a total of 350,000 square meters on the peninsula. “The transfer of ownership of our (expropriated – Ed) land has not yet been completed. Though the use of our property has already taken place,” criticizes Kura.
“They continue to build anyway”
The lawyers of the Kura family refer to a court order of the Council of State – one of the highest courts in Turkey. “An exemplary stop has been ordered, and until the existing legal problems have been eliminated and since there is no final decision of the court yet, but a temporary one, it must be enforced,” said the lawyer Bekir Aytekin. The decision is directed against the expropriation decision of Ministerial Declaration, which stipulates EMRA – the energy market regulation office, to carry out the nationalization of the lands. “The local prosecutor has also noted an intervention on the private land, “says Aytekin. The same was also observed by the local police and forwarded in writing to the prosecutor.” We have all the legal evidence.
The turbine supplier Nordex provides no objections to the construction. “The customer ABK has submitted all the necessary permits. We also asked if there were any changes in the situation. We were told that nothing has changed,” says Hans-Rudolf Lenhartz, chief legal officer at Nordex, interviewed by DW. Nordex has a contractual legal contract, to which it is bound. “We honor our obligations under the Treaty of course” says Lenhartz. Turkey is also an important market for the company. “We have already provided 600 megawatts of supplies in Turkey. For about four years, we have been involved in several wind farms in Turkey and have had positive experiences with the land issues. We are market leaders and have no doubt that the customer’s requirements has been fulfilled with the construction of the facilities, “said Lenhartz.
“Nordex has detailed information on the execution, and stop order from the lawsuits” criticizes Aytekin. “Foreign investors do not ask whether their investments and activities are in accordance with the Turkish laws. They get their money and then they are satisfied,” criticizes Aytekin. It is always the same. “The construction of the third airport and the third Bosphorus Bridge will be conducted in the same way. Environmentalists and the population are ignored,” said Aytekin.
“The judiciary is not always independent”
Arsin Demir, a lawyer of the energy company ABK, refers to the expropriation of private land and the urgent seizure. “This urgent seizure was accepted by the Council of Ministers. The project thus has a legal basis,” said Demir. In addition, no wind turbines would be built on private land, but only on public land, he says. “Only small portions of private properties were expropriated as part of security measures, because they are located around the turbines” says the lawyer. In conservation areas also there are exceptions for certain construction projects, he says.
Lami Bertan Tokuzlu, legal expert at the Bilgi University in Istanbul, however, sees a clear violation of the law, “otherwise the Council of State would not have voted for an execution stop”. Such violations are common in Turkey, says Tokuzlu. “When they build the wind farm in Cesme, they disregard the court order,” said the legal expert. The hope for courts to achieve greater success, however, is low. “Most energy companies are close to the government and the judiciary is not always independent.”
It is important for future investments in Turkey that the government finally sign the Aarhus Convention, says Tanay Sidki Uyar, Head of the Energy Department of the Marmara University in Istanbul and President of the European Association for Renewable Energy (EUROSOLAR). “The Convention asks for transparency regarding construction projects. There are criteria for the construction of wind farms. Citizens have thus the right to oppose certain projects. Then they could be build up somewhere else”, says Uyar to DW.
Original article in German: Deutsche Welle , 7th of July, 2014
* Deutsche Welle (DW) is Germany’s international broadcaster. Peter Limbourg has been Director General since 2013. Around 3,000 employees and freelancers from 60 countries work in DW’s headquarters in Bonn and main studio in Berlin.