ANKARA – The debate over a controversial road construction on the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) campus shows that “some people have not learned their lessons,” according to the outgoing EU ambassador to Turkey.
“It is unfortunate that it was undertaken without waiting for the final [court] decision.,” Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, told a group of journalists yesterday when asked about Ankara Municipality’s decision to launch the construction of a controversial road project crossing the ODTÜ campus.
Road construction teams and heavy duty machines of Ankara Municipality entered the ODTÜ campus around 10 p.m. on the night of Oct. 18, the last day of the Feast of Sacrifice, triggering protests. Hundreds of trees were cut down or moved during the construction work.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek said the launch of the construction was a surprise to him, too, but there was no legal obstacle.
“Somebody took the decision, I do not know who. It is unfortunate because it seems that some people have not learned their lessons,” Ripert said.
Even if it was a surprise, then it could still be stopped afterwards, the French diplomat said, in an apparent reference to Mayor Gökçek’s remarks suggesting that the ODTÜ action was also a surprise for him.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek defended the municipality’s work on the ODTÜ campus, saying that all work could start as the plan was taking effect in accordance with the construction law.
“One can do all the work as soon as the plan enters into force, according to the construction law. This is practiced in all municipalities across Turkey without exception. In the event of any objection or court decision to stop the execution, then what’s necessary will be done. We have carried out the necessary legal procedures,” said Gökçek in a press conference held in Ankara yesterday.
He said the protection and parceling plan for ODTÜ had entered into force, adding that around 2,388 trees had been removed from the ODTÜ campus so far. Gökçek claimed that the municipality had paid the university the total cost of the trees, 211,000 Turkish Liras, and said they had relocated around 600 of the trees.
The ODTÜ rector’s office issued a statement on refuting the latter claim, saying it was not possible to transfer 600 trees in one night. The university also vowed to resort to legal means over the municipality’s operation on Oct. 19, saying that it lacked legal basis.
Groups of university students and citizens planted trees in the construction area yesterday in protest at the road plans.
22 October 2013