AMBASSADOR OF TURKEY TO UKRAINE
Ukraine 2021 I Ukraine & Turkey Special I Leader
BIOGRAPHY Born in 1976 in Paris, he graduated in 1997 from the International Relations Department from the Bilkent University in turkey. in the same year, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assumed multiple roles in Turkey, Syria, Brussels, Iraq and Russia. He was appointed Ambassador of Turkey to Ukraine in January 2019 and in February 2019 presented Letters of Credence to the President of Ukraine.
“THE LEADERSHIP OF UKRAINE IS WORKING HARD TO IMPROVE THE BUSINESS CLIMATE, WORKING ON MANY DIFFERENT REFORMS. AS SUCH, IT IS NO SURPRISE THAT TURKISH BUSINESS PEOPLE SEE GREAT PROSPECTS HERE. I AM SURE THEY ARE NOT ALONE.”
THE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (FTA) BETWEEN UKRAINE AND TURKEY WILL ALLOW REACHING U$10 BILLION IN TRADE FROM THE CURRENT U$5 BILLION ANNUALLY. WHAT OTHER BENEFITS THE FTA WILL BRING TO BOTH COUNTRIES?
Free Trade Agreements not only boost trade but also have many positive spillover effects. More trade eventually turns into more investment which means more jobs, increased market dynamism and more overall economic growth. A special gain from the FTA will be increased exchange of technology and experience. Economies of Turkey and Ukraine have comparative advantages in various sectors and the FTA will push companies to be more innovative and competitive, leading to better prices for consumers and stronger export capacity for producers.
I clearly remember when we signed the Customs Union with the EU back in 1995. There was strong criticism from within Turkey against that deal, saying it would destroy many domestic sectors and cause huge damage to our economy. Of course, there were challenges; however, in time, it helped our economy turn into a more competitive one. So when we talk about FTA between our countries, I think there is one simple question we need to answer: do we want to protect what we have now, or do we want to get more competitive and grow together? My choice is quite clear here. Our trade currently stands close to US$ 5 billion. The turnover in 2020 was almost the same as 2019, despite the pandemic. This is a respectable amount, but if you consider the potential of Turkey and Ukraine put together, it is surely not enough. I am sure that when we sign the FTA, we will first move towards US$ 10 billion, and then further beyond.
THE TURKISH BUSINESS COMMUNITY IS ONE OF THE MOST ACTIVE IN UKRAINE’S ECONOMY. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE OF TURKISH INVESTMENTS IN UKRAINE IN THE UPCOMING YEARS?
Turks are well-known for their entrepreneurial spirit. Ukraine is certainly not an exception. With an overall investment of over US$ 3.5 billion, Turkish companies rank high among the foreign investors in Ukraine. With our excellent bilateral relations, President Zelensky’s ambitious plans for improving the investment climate in the country and bold initiatives like Big Construction, Ukraine has definitely become a rising star for our investors. I am sure that in the period ahead, we will see more investments in fields like construction, infrastructure, agriculture & food processing, green energy, textiles, furniture and others.
I am also quite happy to see that the Turkish companies who come here establish great ties with the society. They become part of the country economically, socially and culturally. They are not just doing business and sending profits back to Turkey. They reinvest, do social responsibility projects, become sponsors to local cultural events. Many Turkish companies had amazing initiatives all over Ukraine throughout the pandemic. This also made us proud, since we coin our foreign policy as enterprising and humanitarian.
Creation of organized industrial zones, which transformed many Turkish cities and towns into economic powerhouses, could be a key factor to boost investments. This is a successful model of business-government-local administration cooperation. I see great interest in this from Ukrainian regions. This will be a key issue we will work on. Another opportunity for grand scale projects is public-private partnership (PPP) model. Turkey has realized many mega projects, from airports to bridges, through this model. We are working with the Ukrainian government to share our experience in this sphere, and hopefully realize similar projects here in Ukraine together.
“WITH AN OVERALL INVESTMENT OF OVER US$ 3.5 BILLION, TURKISH COMPANIES RANK HIGH AMONG THE FOREIGN INVESTORS IN UKRAINE.”
LAST YEAR THE BILATERAL TOURISM REACHED A NEW RECORD. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO INCREASE THESE NUMBERS IN THE POST-COVID ERA?
Turkey is a major tourism destination for Ukrainians. Despite of the pandemic, nearly 1 million Ukrainians visited Turkey in 2020, which is a big success given the huge blow dealt by Covid on tourism. As you will agree, we couldn’t have reached such numbers if we didn’t take special measures against Covid. We did this through our safe tourism certification program. To obtain this certificate, hotels and tour operators need to observe hundreds of criteria that ensures maximum hygiene from transport to accommodation, even distance between chaise-longues at the beach. These measures are valid for 2021 too, and constantly being updated. So our Ukrainian guests can already book their vacations for summer.
That being said, Turkey’s tourism is not only sun and sea. We have great deals for winter, medical, sports and culture tourism too. Göreme National Park and Cappadocia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is becoming increasingly popular among Ukrainians. Charter flights from Ukraine to Erzurum and Erciyes, major winter sports centers, have started this year. Medical tourism is another rapidly developing area where Ukrainian guests both get treatment and a lovely holiday in one package. Honestly all these, together with geographical proximity, visa-free regime, chance to fly just with ID-cards and daily flights among various cities, makes me think our current record of 1,5 million will not last long.
Ukraine is an underrated country in many regards. It has a dynamic, well-educated population, fertile soil and great natural resources. The leadership of Ukraine is working hard to improve the business climate, working on many different reforms. Transportation infrastructure is going through a major overhaul. As such, it is no surprise that Turkish businesspeople see great prospects here. I am sure they are not alone.