Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey

“The only way which leads EU to success is unity and cooperation”

22.07.2014 / Ankara

TOBB President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu attended the iftar supper hosted by Italy’s Ambassador to Ankara, Gianpaolo Scarante. Speaking at the supper, Hisarcıklıoğlu said:​

“First of all, let me congratulate the Italian Ambassador for holding the EU Presidency. We appreciate and support the Presidency program. We know that, the program is very ambitious, however challenging. I wish the Italian Presidency a successful term. We hope that, as stated, the Italian Presidency will deal with expansion as a priority. Moreover, Italian Presidency will give fresh energy in the EU-Turkey accession negotiations.


Here I would like to refer to the some of the developments in the European Institutions. You had the European Parliament elections in May. And we all know the results. After the elections, Martin Shultz was elected as the President of the European Parliament. We know him very well. Recently Jean-Claude Juncker has been elected as the Commission President for the next 5 years. We have carefully studied his program. We agree with the most part of the program on economic and social policy needs and the external actions.


On the other hand, I was really shocked about his approach to expansion. Of course, one could say that, there is a commitment to the ongoing negotiations. However, Turkey was not even mentioned by him. This situation is totally different from the claim that, the EU needs a “break” to concentrate on the consolidation. I hope that, despite Mr. Juncker’s agenda, the Italian approach on Turkey’s membership process succeeds.”


- “Europe should integrate the countries, who want more democracy and more rights, into the EU”


“Recent developments in our region show that, the only way which leads EU to success, goes hand-in-hand with unity and cooperation. No single European country itself would be strong enough to defend the interests of its citizens. This is true for Italy, Germany, France and other European countries. However, this is equally true, for Turkey, as a key European country, belonging to the G 20. We also need the European anchor.


Europe should change its expansion policy for the countries who share the European values. Europe should integrate the countries, who want more democracy and more rights, into the EU. The events in Ukraine have proven this. Unless you realize this, it would take longer and longer, to have full democracy and stability in this region.


It is clear that, our relations with the EU are difficult. The problems still remain. However, we wish to concentrate on a positive agenda. I want to underline that, the position of the Turkish business community on the EU accession of Turkey has not changed.  We see the membership as a driver for internal reform, for growth and business both in Turkey and in the EU. 


We also see Turkey’s membership as a driver for stronger role of the EU. In fact, besides Turkish business community, European enterprises still think positive. In our recent survey with EUROCHAMBRES, it is clear that, the most of the European companies believe that, Turkey will become member of the EU.”


- The visa issue


“Let me briefly touch some problematic areas, where we could, and should find more common grounds.


Visa free travel remains our goal. We are working hard on fulfilling all conditions. As you know that, readmission agreement was just signed. The road map is guiding our efforts towards this goal. As we all know travelling freely into the EU is of greatest public importance for Turkish business community. The Commission has recently listed a new visa-proposal, which will soon be discussed within the Parliament and the Council.


I want to highlight the fact that, this visa proposal is mostly driven from the perspective of tourism. The economic needs of business in a properly functioning EU-Turkey customs union are completely left apart.


Of course, the situation of Turkey is unique. For example, if you are from Norway, you do business with the EU; you can travel freely to your business partners, your lorries enter freely the Community territory. If you are from Turkey you need a visa to visit your business partner, any lorry that carries goods into the EU is charged heavily, the drivers have to comply with the visa rule and the drivers may be send back, for reasons of overstay. (Overstay is many times the result of waiting at the borders. Nobody can calculate these unexpected waiting periods before.)


We wish to boost trade; especially trade between SME’s in the EU-Turkish relations. I advise you to look at the new visa proposal from an economic point of view. We need to find a special solution for this problem.”


- “On the matter of transport policy we are treated as a truly third country”


“Secondly, concerning the transport policy; despite the Customs Union, we are treated as a truly third country. The Union has solved this issue for the countries of the European Economic Area; even for Switzerland, but not for Turkey. I am sure that, any solution would bring strong great benefits for both sides. Thirdly, I am aware of the EU`s interest in widening the Customs Union approach to services and agriculture. This would help overcome current obstacles to trade and investments. However, we have to make sure that, the EU does not consider negotiations for a better Customs Union as an alternative to the expansion. We have to inform the business circle and the public as a whole. Fourthly, as you all are well aware, this is an area of serious concern to us.”


- “TTIP is also about ensuring possible cooperation with Turkey”


“Whatever you negotiate with a third country, we have to follow up, without getting anything in return from the trade partner. The so-called Turkish clause, which encourages the country to conclude a similar FTA with Turkey, is not enough. We lack a proper consultation mechanism, which guarantees that Turkey does not lose. Take the TTIP negotiations – following a German estimate, Turkey will belong to the economic losers, next to Mexico and Canada. And this is unacceptable!


A recent World Bank study has confirmed the need to overcome the current situation. But this must be done soon, until the damage is done. Therefore, TTIP is not only about ensuring better transparency for the EU citizens; it is also about ensuring possible cooperation with Turkey. In the light of the existing rules, there is no obstacle for Turkey to take part in the relevant Council committee to be informed and heard.


I would like to mention also Cyprus. I am sure we all have interest in getting a final solution.  We have developed our relations with Greece; we are ready to invest in our neighborhood and contribute to the development of the region. As I am the Deputy President of EUROCHAMBRES, I work very closely with both chambers in Greece and Cyprus. In fact, I was elected three times with their support since 2009. As the business community, we support the process to find a solution.


We have also taken concrete initiative. After great efforts and long talks, recently, we managed to come together as TOBB, Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cypriot Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce in Nicosia. We have decided to establish the Nicosia Economic Forum. We shall come together on September 14th, in Istanbul.


Finally, I would like to brief you on the B20 Turkey process. As you all know, Turkey will host the G20 next year in Turkey. And, as the President of TOBB, I will take over the B20 Presidency next year.  We have been working to finalize our program. We want an inclusive agenda for all of us. We want to see more European businesses in this platform. We will approach the ambassadors of G20 countries on this issue. Also we want to hear the voice of SMEs in this platform. As I understand, this will also be an EU priority for the next years. The Commission has announced that it will review the Small Business Act. We also have to support female entrepreneurship. We need to drive innovation.  These items should be put on our common agenda, demonstrating the deepening of the EU-Turkish relations in B20 platform, too.”

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