It is a distinct pleasure to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in Bucharest with our Romanian friends. October 29, 1923 marks the birth of modern Turkey and the victory in Turkish motherland in the aftermath of the WWI. This year is particularly important as it marks the 140th anniversary of Turkish – Romanian diplomatic relations and the Centenary of Romania.
Proclamation of the Republic represents the launch of the fundamental modernization process in Turkey. Turkish nation underwent a comprehensive set of reforms in all facets of life, leading to a social, economic and institutional transformation. Turkish nation managed to transform its deep experience of modernization efforts that was accumulated in the preceding two centuries into a modern, democratic, and secular state.
Today, we are proud and happy to commemorate the proclamation of our Republic and pay tribute to the architects of modern Turkey, notably Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Our unwavering commitment to maintain a democratic, secular, and prosperous country goes unabated.
Turkey conducts its foreign policy guided by the principle of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World” as set out by Atatürk.
Our foreign policy is based on a harmonious approach. We prioritize the utilization of relevant instruments to project peace, security, and stability in our region and beyond.
We live in an age of uncertainties. Our policies should be able to adapt to constant change and shape new dynamics in the direction of peace, prosperity, and stability. The issues on our agenda are complex and many of them are in global nature. The political, economic, social and human aspects are interlinked. Unfortunately, we continue to witness bloodshed due to proxy wars, sectarian wrangling, territorial conflicts, or terrorism. The wealth of countries in our region is spent for arms and violence, instead of welfare, production, and peace.
As the problems in our vicinity have imminent and direct effects on us, we do not have the luxury to be idle bystanders. We need to offer solutions through a foreign policy approach that is entrepreneurial, pre-emptive, and respectful to principles. Therefore, our foreign policy embraces foresight and action.
We characterize this concept as “entrepreneurial and humanitarian foreign policy”. We name it as “entrepreneurial”, because we conduct our foreign policy in a realistic, independent, and influent manner, which is able to utilize all these components in a rational way. We evaluate the notions of development and peace as a unified pre-conditions.
We also characterize our foreign policy as “humanitarian”, since we aim to contribute to peace, security, and welfare of humanity without any discrimination on religious, ethnic, or sectarian grounds. It is therefore not a coincidence that Turkey became the largest humanitarian donor country in the world last year. The total amount of humanitarian assistance by Turkey was USD 8.06 billion in 2017. It was USD 6 billion in 2016. Compared to the ratio against the GDP, Turkey stands out as the most generous country in the world in the last two years.
We provide shelter to the biggest number of immigrants and refugees. Turkey pays the most expensive price in the world in the face of the cross border consequences of the Syrian conflict. We currently host 3.5 million Syrians. We have paid USD 32 billion so far. Syrian population has already outnumbered the local population in some Turkish cities and towns. An approximate number of 350 thousand Syrian babies were born in Turkey since the beginning of the crisis. We provide free healthcare and education services to our Syrian and Iraqi guests. The number of children benefiting from free education has surpassed 600 thousand. Likewise, we provide basic and fundamental services at the camps.
Ethnic or religious hatred, discrimination, extremism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of exclusions appear as widespread scourges. We assumed leading roles and initiatives to raise awareness in international community towards fostering mutual respect and common values among different cultures and religions. The UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative, co-sponsored by Turkey and Spain is a concrete step in that regard.
Promoting the notion of collective response to alleviate the adverse effects of common challenges, we have also been active in efforts to foster facilitation and mediation. Turkey, together with Finland, Co-Chairs at the Group of Friends of Mediation at the UN. We also co-chair a similar group at the OSCE.
In the last three years, Turkey has faced a number of formidable challenges: A big refugee crisis, a violent and bloody coup attempt, murderous attacks by various terrorist organizations and ongoing proxy wars on our doorstep. Remember that migration crisis alone triggered domestic crises and shook governments in Europe and challenged the foundations of the European Union.
In spite of all these challenges, Turkey managed to be an element of stability in its region. It lifted the emergency rule that it was obliged to adopt in 2016 in the aftermath of the coup attempt. We now restart the reform process and focus on the EU accession process.
Romania holds a special place for Turkey and Turkish diplomacy. Our relations continue to prosper in an era, where we experience multiple turbulences. Our close cooperation within the regional and international platforms is exemplary. We value our strategic partnership and alliance within NATO.
Our ever-growing cooperation takes its strength from common values and a shared vision for the future. Today, Turkish-Romanian collaboration covers a broad spectrum of areas. Turkish private sector operates throughout Romania, creating jobs and contributing to production and exports. Our militaries have regular close contacts at various levels. Social and cultural ties, which have a long history, continue to prosper.
The trajectory of our cooperation covers a wide route that spans the Balkans and Afghanistan on two edges on the map, stretching through the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Middle East. Likewise, UN, NATO, OSCE, and BSEC set the main platforms that we maintain our collaboration at international fora. Black Sea security and stability is one high priority area where we have a shared interest. Trilateral consultation mechanism with Poland has also become a solid platform for cooperation.
Romania’s support to Turkey’s EU accession process is another significant example of solidarity that we appreciate. We look forward to working together during Romania’s upcoming Presidency of the EU Commission.
Economic and trade relations set the most dynamic part of our cooperation. Turkish entrepreneurs who came to Romania after 1989 paved the way for a remarkable level of economic integration. Today, they have made Romania their second home. As of October 2018, our bilateral trade has reached an approximate volume of USD 5 billion, making Turkey the 5th largest trading partner of Romania and the biggest outside the EU. We will work hard to reach our mutually set target of USD 10 billion.
Turkish investments also continue to flourish in Romania. Over 15.000 Turkish companies are registered in Romania with a total investment of an approximate USD 7 billion. Turkish companies in Romania operate in a wide range of sectors, including banking, machinery, home appliances, construction, glass and wood production, textiles, transportation, tourism, agriculture, food processing, health, and media. I believe that Turkish private sector will continue to make further contributions to the Romanian economy and Turkish – Romanian bilateral ties.
Tourism is another area where we witness concrete outcome of the affinity between our peoples. Close to half a million Romanian tourists visit Turkey every year, making my country among the top tourism destinations for Romanians. Addressing the steadily increasing demand, number of regular weekly flights between Istanbul and Romanian cities surpassed 50.
Being proud citizens of Romania, Turkish-Tatar community sets the strongest bond between our two countries. Similarly, the dynamic Turkish expat community has also become a component of solid friendship between Turkey and Romania. We are proud to witness their achievements as well as their contribution to this beautiful country. We commend the exemplary inclusive policies of the Romanian state towards the Turkish-Tatar minority.
In light of this sound and dynamic backdrop, our relations will continue to develop and our cooperation will sail towards new horizons to the benefit of our two nations.
Turkey and Romania will continue to serve peace, security, and stability in their broader regions.
This special supplement covers articles by representatives of our larger Embassy family. You will have the opportunity to have a quick tour of their views and works. You will also find additional articles on several aspects of the Turkish culture. I thank the Nine O’Clock family for this opportunity and wish them success in their valuable work for the expat community in Romania.
Long live the Turkish-Romanian partnership!