Sure, the personal relations on high levels of the
governments also could create new opportunities especially in this region, in
which Eastern culture is dominant to shape people’s characters and visions.
Therefore, this kind of high-level visit must be
considered important enough in terms of their conclusions in the short and long
term. Looking at the prevalent situation of Ukraine, Erdogan’s visit can be
considered a promising step to improve bilateral political and economic
relations for both sides; but particularly for Ukraine.
Having a strong relationshiop with a neighbor country
which has had outstanding economic growth in last decade may give new hopes to
Ukrainian government in this circumstances that the country feels itself pretty
lonely in the relations with Western world. Just right after Russia, Turkey is
the second biggest nominee for Ukraine as to be executed many collaborative
activities at governmental and public levels, together.
Despite it is too early to talk about the concrete,
promising conclusions of this visit, the last two meetings of Erdogan and Ukrainian
President Viktor Yanukovych, which took place in Ukraine (Jan. 25, 2011) and Turkey
(December 2011) have created concrete results, such as visa exemptions for both
sides’ citizens and also ongoing studies on a free-trade agreement process.
Nevertheless, these two Black Sea neighbors have more
issues to be straightened out and there are still such steps to be taken vice
versa. But at least we see the strong intensions by both sides to improve bilateral
Let’s remember the first official visit of Turkish prime
minister to Ukraine in January 2011, which coincided with the annual meeting of
the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey; more than 500 Turkish
businessmen attended to the Economic Forum of Ukraine and Turkey, mutually led
by Erdogan and Yanukovych.
Imagine and compare. How many other countries have had
such events with this volume of the participants in Ukraine and feel the
atmosphere created by Turkish delegation along with enthusiastic businessmen and
their Ukrainian counterparts.
It was really a very important sign to give us pause
to think about the potential future collaborations of two nations. At the end
of the visit, in my review article at that time, I had paid great attention to
the summit and the possible conclusions of it. Under the influence of the
atmosphere, the two leaders unanimously agreed on the decision to increase bilateral
trade volume up to $ 20 billion in very near future.
Preliminary working plan of the Turkish side included
the signing of the Free Trade Agreement , visa exemption, opening of the Turkish
consulate in Simferopol and to increase the frequency of the flights of Turkish
Airlines and other Turkish airline companies. Also it was planned to create a
strategy for economic and political cooperation between two countries. After
more than a year and a half, we can draw conclusions about which objectives are
achieved, and how successful are the results.
Let’s look at the macroeconomic indicators first.
In 2011, the import volume of the Turkish side from
Ukraine increased by 26 percent compared to 2010, reaching $4.8 billion against
the previous year’s $3.8 billion. Exports to Ukraine is increased even more, by
37 percent and reached $1.73 billion, while $1.26 billion was made in the
previous year. Bilateral foreign trade turnover increased by 29 percent, and
the volume of bilateral trade reached $6.5 billion.
Despite a little decline in foreign trade volume of
Turkey in the first half of 2012, export to Ukraine has a tendency of growth.
They mutually have great expectations for the booming in trade relations
between Ukraine and Turkey after signing of the Free Trade Agreement, even
though there are some undetermined points yet, they do not expect any serious
obstacles for the realization of this project.
The signing of the agreement definitely will be an
important step towards better turnover of goods and services. And being in
force from Aug. 1, a new visa regime allows the free movement of citizens. This
kind of agreement is a great success for both governments. If the end of the
year free trade agreement would be signed, a new era will be started in of both
countries’ friendly relations.
During Erdogan’s visit, the official meeting of the High-Level
Strategic Cooperation Council will be taken place in Kyiv; as to be remembered
the first meeting was made in Turkey, in December 2011 during President
Yanukovych’ visit to Turkey. Ukraine,
which wants to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, using alternative energy
sources, requires close cooperation with Turkey
in this matter. Turkey also
intends to learn more about the Ukrainian experience in nuclear and coal
industry. Thus, two countries will strengthen cooperation in the energy, and
the Council will prepare good soil for this.
The next important point of mutual cooperation between
Ukraine and Turkey is tourism. In 2011, 602,000 Ukrainians
visited Turkey, which is 6 percent more than in the previous year, making
Turkey is the most visited country by Ukrainian tourists. However, Turkish
citizens, fed up with Europe, come to see the sights of Lviv and Crimea, to
which Turkey is historically and culturally linked as well as with the western
Ukraine. It’s no secret that Ukraine
intends to actively develop the Crimean tourism sector, and to do this it must
adopt the successful experience in the tourism industry from Turkey.
Another area of cooperation between Ukraine and Turkey,
after the economy and tourism, is the transport sector. Here the air travel
comes first. Over the past year, the efforts of the Turkish government, the
largest representatives of Civil Aviation and Turkish Airlines, increased the
quota on the number of flights to Ukraine.
Today, Ukraine is as
frequent destination for Turkish Airlines aircraft, such as Germany and Russia,
and perhaps in the near future, the Ukrainian direction will become the leader
in profit margins. Turkish Airlines has not only increased the quota on the
number of flights to 7, but also increased the frequency of flights.
Other Turkish airlines, such as “Pegasus”
and “Onur Air” launched new flights to other cities in Ukraine. We
are also happy because of the reduction on ticket prices, which remained high
until recently. One of the primary goals of the visit of the prime minister
should be to increase quotas on the number of flights not only for Turkish
Airlines, but for the other Turkish airlines Companies. Increase the number of
flights will be beneficial in all points.
honors Ukraine, as a
civilized, democratic state, with which it has a common history and cultural
values. Also, our culture is increasingly intertwined through marriages between
citizens of both countries and the growing tourism. This year Ukraine marks the 21st anniversary of its
independence and the cultural community should be strengthened. The best
evidence of this should be the opening of the Cultural Center of Yunus Emre in
Kyiv. I hope, this issue will be raised during the visit, and the two countries
reach an understanding that in such a beautiful city as Kyiv, there should be a
cultural center in which you can teach Turkish language and become familiar with
Turkey was fairly considered to be a star of the last
two annual forums of Yalta European Strategy. Yalta, which is called the
Ukrainian Davos, becomes not for the first time a platform for meetings and
round-table discussions at the highest levels, to discuss the necessary steps
to achieve the European values in Ukraine. This year, Erdogan is attending to
the meeting as the guest of honor and co-chairman together with Yanukovych. On
this occasion, Erdogan is visiting Crimea for the first time. I am more than
sure it would undoubtedly be the stimulating effect for the developments in economic,
political and cultural relations between two countries.
Looking at the recent developments, don’t we have the
right to be more optimistic in two nations’ friendly relations?
Burak Pehlivan is the vice president
of the International Turkish and Ukrainian Business Association.