In an interview with Today’s Zaman Marga stated that the efforts of the Turkish state do not only highlight its desire to join the EU, but also show its ability to support the union’s goals and to contribute to a united Europe, adding that Romania welcomes and supports Turkey’s European integration. He added that by joining the European Community area Turkey may transfer its own regional expertise and credibility, on multiple levels, with real benefits for EU foreign policy in areas such as North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. “We [Romania] believe that an argument which has not been yet fully used to its full potential is the genuine willingness of Turkey to go through reforms and to align with the European acquis, which is often not easy to achieve. This readiness to implement the reforms, on different levels and with complex implications for the development of Turkey, should continue and generate tangible results in the next period,” said Marga.
Romania constant and vocal supporter of Turkey’s EU bid
“We tirelessly reiterate that Romania will steadily stay consistent with its reputation of being a constant and vocal supporter of Turkey’s accession to EU. We do count on the continuation of the progress in this respect during the next period of time and we are ready to support this course beyond the scope of the bilateral relations,” said Marga. Touching upon bilateral relations between Turkey and Romania, Marga said that the relations were excellent, undoubtedly the best they have been throughout the common history. “Both countries have developed an increasing dynamism in all fields -- political, economic and strategic. This new quality of cooperation was reached with the signing of the bilateral Strategic Partnership in December 2011. We are currently working to put the final touches on the Action Plan of our Strategic Partnership in view of establishing major bilateral projects ranging from the economic, energy, transportation, home affairs, environment, labor, education and cultural issues, to the regional, European and international projects,” said Marga.
“We [Romania] cooperate very well with Turkey in regional affairs, based on our shared interest in ensuring the development and the prosperity in the wider Black Sea region and in the Western Balkans as well,” said Marga, adding the political dialogue between two countries has been an intensive one, including frequent exchanges of top-level visits.
Bilateral relations between Turkey and Romania are being pursued through close dialogue and friendship. Mutual high-level visits are paid regularly between the two countries. Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited Romania in March 2008 following Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Romania in October 2007. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also paid an official visit to Romania in July 2009 and August 2011.
Romanian President Traian Basescu traveled to Turkey as part of the regional tour he made after the conflict between the Russian Federation and Georgia which took place in August 2008.
Trade exchanges have witnessed a positive dynamic
When asked about the prospects of development in the economic cooperation between Turkey and Romania, Marga stated that in spite of the crisis, the trade exchanges between two countries have recently witnessed a positive dynamics.
“Turkey is the first trading partner of Romania outside the EU and ranks the fifth among Romania’s world trade partners. In our turn, we are one of Turkey’s most significant partners, ranking the 12th among the suppliers to the Turkish market and the 15th among the importers of Turkish goods. In the first quarter of 2012, the Romanian-Turkish trade exchanges reached 953 million euros,” said Marga, adding that as of March 2012 around 13,000 Turkish companies were registered in Romania.
Economic and commercial relations are very important aspects of the bilateral cooperation between Turkey and Romania. Turkish businesspeople, who have had a presence in Romania since 1989 and are familiar with the Romanian business environment, constitute the most important asset in further developing Turkish-Romanian economic relations.
Turkey is the third largest investor in Romania. More than 6,000 Turkish companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises as well as large-scale businesses, are actively operating with Romania in the trade, manufacture and service sectors. The types of business include food production, agriculture, construction, media, education, Internet and health industries.
“Undoubtedly, the maximum limit of the potential of our bilateral economic relationships has not been yet reached. This is the reason for the agreement reached on the occasion of last year’s summit dialogue for bringing the bilateral trade during the coming few years to 10 billion dollars. This figure has been already targeted during the last few years and we are well aware that the world is currently facing global economic turmoil; we nevertheless believe that there are real opportunities for reaching this goal, relying on our joint efforts,” said Marga, adding that Romania appreciates the active involvement and entrepreneurial capacity of the Turkish businesspeople in Romanian markets -- mainly in trade, agriculture, the banking sector, health, media and tourism.
Exploring opportunities in Turkey
Marga stated that Romania encourages Romanian businesspeople to explore business opportunities in Turkey and to be more active in this continuously expanding market. “It is also of paramount importance for enhancing the strategic nature of our bilateral relations to mirror our excellent political cooperation with an ever stronger economic partnership between two countries,” said the Romanian foreign minister.
Marga also underlined that one of the most significant measures endorsed by the Romanian government to encourage economic cooperation between Romania and Turkey was the recent facilitation of the entry visa regime for the Turkish businesspeople traveling to Romania. “Through such measures we have aligned the visa regime applied by Romania to Turkish citizens to the one enforced by Schengen member states, meaning the possibility of granting visas with one- to five-year validity,” said Marga.
When asked for his evaluation of the results of the NATO summit in Chicago, which took place May 20-21, Marga replied that Romania was confident that NATO succeeded in consolidating its profile as relevant player at a global level and reasserted the vitality of transatlantic relations. “The alliance’s decision to declare the interim operational NATO missile defense capability consolidates Romania’s role and that of all of the other NATO members who host elements of the system, including Turkey. I can tell you that Turkey remains an indispensable ally for Romania,” said Marga. Touching upon NATO’s enlargement prospects in the coming year, Marga stated that although NATO’s Chicago summit was not intended to be an enlargement summit, the messages received by the aspiring states (Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro) were encouraging. “As far as enlargement of NATO is concerned, Romania and Turkey share a similar stand, considering this goal to be a strategic decision meant to contribute to the democratization and stabilization of the neighboring regions of the Alliance. During the next period, Romania and Turkey will not only offer political support to the enlargement process and to the alliance’s open door policy, but also will evaluate several practical measures, which can be accomplished together, in order to reach this goal,” said Marga.
“I enjoy participating in the Black Sea Cooperation Council (BSEC) summit in İstanbul, which represents for us one more opportunity to reconfirm the special importance we attach to Black Sea cooperation,” said Marga.
The 20th Anniversary Summit of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) will take place on June 26 in İstanbul. The summit will be co-chaired by Turkey and Serbia this year.
Romania is among the 12 members of the BSEC, which also includes Turkey, Albania, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Greece.
When asked whether the BSEC had a role in mitigating the effects of the economic crisis that the member states face, Marga replied that the BSEC was not insulated or immune against the contagious effects of the most severe economic crisis in recent history. “For us, the challenges are very clear. This economic crisis should be overcome by all possible means. We have to take benefit of the situation to re-think our opportunities and to find new ways of re-launching our economies, and the BSEC does offer some useful tools in this respect,” said Marga, adding that Romania supports the Black Sea Trade and Development Bank, which despite the economic and financial crisis has maintained its positive rating and contributed to the financing of projects in BSEC member states.
When asked whether he believed closer cooperation between the BSEC and the EU would be beneficial, Marga replied that in bilateral relations, the BSEC and the EU should function as partners, based on trust and a win-win situation, adding that what is good for the EU was good for the BSEC as well, reciprocity being perfectly valid as long as the goals of both organizations overlap in the Black Sea. “The majority of BSEC member states are either EU members, aspiring members, or in the process of accession. Turkey is a good example. It would be a great mistake to minimize the importance of the EU. Up to this moment, the history of the European construction is a succession of overcome crises, from which the EU itself and its member states have emerged stronger and more united. This problem depends on the political will of the member states, so that the benefits of the cooperation can be shared by all sides,” said Marga.
The Romanian foreign minister added that cooperation with Brussels can help the BSEC to better define its priorities directly correlated to the European agenda to the benefit of the citizens of member states. “When I say this, I think of the clearly acknowledged fundamental interest of the EU in the democratic development and consolidation of BSEC member states,” said Marga.
Increasing EU interest in the Black Sea
Marga stated that EU interest in the Black Sea region has substantially increased in recent years, adding that the cooperation initiatives launched by the EU, especially the Black Sea Synergy and Eastern Partnership, stand as proof of this interest.
“I would especially like to mention Romania’s contribution and involvement to substantiate EU Partnership on Environment for the Black Sea, a European project launched in 2010, part of the EU’s Black Sea Synergy. Besides the Black Sea NGO Forum, both BSEC member countries and the EU have created high expectations for this project. On the other hand, we fully acknowledge the work of the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation (BST) as a major contribution of the German Marshall Fund of the United States -- the Memorial to the Marshall Plan,” said Marga.
The Romanian foreign minister also stated that Brussels can engage in financing specific economic projects proposed by the BSEC, adding the Black Sea region was the source of many risks facing the European continent’s security as well; both EU and the BSEC states were interested in fighting such threats as different types of trafficking, terrorism, etc. Marga added that cooperation between the two organizations could bring substantial benefits.