Speaking at a conference organized by the European-Turkish Business Confederation (UNITEE) at the EP in Brussels on Monday, the Dutch parliamentarian emphasized Turkey’s potential as a valuable asset for the EU. “In my opinion, Turkey has a highly strategic role. It is so in the fields of both security and energy. The cooperation between the EU and Turkey can only yield fruits,” she said.
The EU is by far Turkey’s largest trade partner and some 45 percent of all Turkish exports go to the bloc’s members. Turkey, likewise, is a larger trade partner for the union than even the world’s top exporters, such as Japan, India, Brazil and South Korea. Turkey’s entry into the EU, however, has been handicapped on several fronts. Since 2005, when it started accession talks with the union, it could successfully conclude only one of 35 negotiation chapters. And the relations are facing a risk of being frozen for six months starting from July, during which Greek Cyprus, with which Turkey is at odds over the reunification of the divided island between Turks in the north and Greeks in the south, will take over the EU Presidency. The conference, titled “Europe’s Gateway to the East: Can Turkey become a Trade-Hub between Europe and Asia?,” also featured Turkey’s permanent representative to the EU Ambassador Selim Yenel, Fujitsu Technology Solutions Vice President Satoru Hayashi and Şükrü Masmas, CEO of the Life and Garden horticultural company based in the Netherlands, as well as UNITEE President Adem Kumcu as speakers.
“My answer is simply yes,” Yenel said, referring to the question posed by the event’s title. The top Turkish diplomat in Brussels also drew attention to Turkey’s growing presence in world trade. Turkey’s exports grew almost fourfold from $35 billion in 2001 to $135 billion at the end of last year.
Kumcu focused on his UNITEE’s role as a facilitator for trade between Turkish and European businesspeople. From the second half of last year, UNITEE -- which represents 10,000 businesspeople and 2,000 professionals belonging to 52 associations in 17 countries across Europe, whose members represent 115 sectors -- has brought together Euro-Turkish entrepreneurs with their counterparts, as well as diplomats and trade and investment representatives from a number of countries, including Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland, to discuss how to make the best out of the present business potential between their countries.