Speaking to Today's Zaman in İstanbul, European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani praised what he called Turkey's fair treatment of foreign companies. "Here it is possible to present our quality. It is possible to work together here. A level playing field is important for us," he said, adding that the recently awarded tender for the new İstanbul bridge is a good example of internationalization. He said it is highly important for Europe to recover from the present crisis, especially for European companies. "It is very difficult for us to compete with China, Russia, India and South America in quantity. But in quality it is possible to compete," he added.
A joint venture between Turkish construction firm İÇTAŞ and Italian construction group Astaldi won the tender for the North Marmara Highway project, which will involve the construction of a third bridge over the Bosporus Strait in İstanbul, late last month. The İÇTAŞ-Astaldi consortium offered to finalize the bridge in 36 months for an estimated cost of $4.5 billion, using a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model. The North Marmara Highway is the largest BOT scheme in Turkey to date.
The commissioner remarked on the equal treatment of foreign companies in Turkey at a press conference he held with European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış under the auspices of the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) on Saturday. “The [football] game is 11 against 11 here in Turkey whereas it is 9 against 13 in China for example,” he said.
‘Euro is under attack'
In remarks to Today's Zaman, Tajani also explained what he thought is the solution to the present set of economic difficulties the union faces today. However, he started by noting the root of Europe's problems. “This crisis is not European. It has come from abroad,” he said, adding that the “euro is under attack” and there are so many speculators who are exacerbating the already difficult situation on European territory. “I don't like the [credit] rating agencies. [They have] no transparency,” he said.
The international credit rating agencies Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch have all downgraded multiple members of the single currency area, often citing a worsening debt crisis and lack of necessary commitment to effectively fight it.
Teaming up with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the EU has already committed some 500 billion euros to finance the bailouts of Greece (twice), Ireland and Portugal. Observers feared, however, that the money failed to re-link those highly indebted countries to international bond markets, and that they may need more EU and IMF money, while fears of contagion for the much larger economies of Spain and Italy remain valid.
For Tajani, the austerity measures prescribed for the debt-crippled peripheral economies of the eurozone must now be supported with a pro-growth policy that will guarantee a reduction in unemployment rates and an increase in tax revenues for those nations. “With a strong policy favoring economic growth, it is possible to beat the crisis but the strategy must be two-sided. Without growth, jobs -- without a dream, it is difficult for people to make sacrifices,” he said.
The commissioner was angry with the fact that now the idea of a Greek exit from the eurozone finds more supporters in European circles. “Now is the time to back Greece because backing Greece is backing our border. If Greece leaves the euro, the problem will not only belong to it but also to all of Europe. Without Greece, without the euro, without our internal market, the problem will also be for our leaders and richer members, for Germany, for example,” he said.
The EU's paymaster Germany -- whose economy is not in recession and whose public finances are much better than the rest of Europe -- has so far resisted calls to also consider Greece's exit from the euro area as a solution to the country's problems as it failed to deliver on its promises vis-à-vis the two voluminous bailout packages it received. Berlin, however, is also demanding that Greece live up to its word and is against easing conditions on the EU-IMF loan it was given. “The German economy is in good shape today but only thanks to our internal market and the euro,” Tajani said, sending a message of warning to Germany on this point.