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Key Economic Data 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
Millions of US $ 182,848 147,700 199,300 24
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,500 2,530 3,080 95
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Ahmet Necdet Sezer 


Update No: 092 - (01/01/05)

EU membership in the balance
An historic moment took place on December 15th when Brussels officially invited Turkey to enter into negotiations to join the European Union (EU). But, there is still a big difference of opinion on the matter among the main members, the UK and other Nordic countries enthusiastically in favour, the French and Germans far more reserved and cautious. Former European Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, for instance, said in September that Turkey's accession would accelerate the ''Islamization'' of Europe. 
Opinion polls in Germany and France show most people in the two largest EU countries oppose Turkey's membership. Turkey's membership is opposed by 67 per cent of French citizens and 55 per cent of Germans, according to a poll by Paris- based market researcher Ifop for the French daily Le Figaro. The company surveyed 1,004 people in France and 943 people in Germany from Nov. 25 to Dec. 3. 
French President Jacques Chirac on Oct. 1 said France would hold a referendum on Turkey's membership. Three days earlier, former Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, now president of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement, said that he favoured a ''`special partnership,'' rather than full membership, for Turkey. ''Seventy-one million Turks today, 100 million in 20 or 30 years; that would be the biggest country in the EU in terms of voting rights,'' Sarkozy said in a speech to party lawmakers Sept. 28 in Paris. ''The balance of Europe would be affected.'' 
There are fears by the French and German pro-federalists that Turkish entry is being used by the British, its most fervent advocates, to brake the original idea of the European project - namely a federation of Europe. They are almost certainly quite right. 
But the logic of history is probably on Albion's side in this case. It is not really feasible to refuse the Turkish request for entry, which dates back to 1959 no less, without appearing anti-Islamicist. In the post-9:11 world this would be an impossibly divisive thing to do. The one Islamic country with a functioning democracy needs to be heartened to encourage others to emulate it.
Turkey has been making huge strides towards complying with EU requirements on human rights and other matters. In September, Erdogan promised to scrap a proposal to criminalize adultery after the EU raised concerns that the measure would discriminate against women. ''Erdogan has convinced the European Union that he's sincere, that he's really trying to change things in Turkey,'' says Mustafa Aydin, a professor of international relations at Ankara University. ''He should now concentrate on pressuring EU leaders, especially in France, to drop any objections.'
The European Union (EU) should not link any more conditions to starting accession negotiations with Turkey, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul. Gul is generally recognised as a brilliant diplomat who has represented Turkish interests in pre-EU entry negotiations with panache.
Gul said that any new demands beyond the accession criteria would be "unacceptable." "We have done what the EU demanded of us. Now it's the turn of the leaders of the EU to fulfil their part of the bargain," said Gul. The EU should vote to start membership negotiations with Turkey early next year without any delay, Gul emphasized. 

Domestic consolidation
Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who took office in March 2003, has done what investors wanted to consolidate Turkey's domestic front: his government has sold assets, controlled spending and slowed inflation. Erdogan has sold about US$2 billion of state assets, widened the tax base and curtailed spending to help bring down the cost of financing US$220 billion of debt and slow inflation to a 30-year low of less than 10 per cent. Turkey's budget surplus, excluding interest payments, jumped 37 per cent last year to 17,534 trillion liras (US$12.5 billion). 
The country's economy shrank 9.5 per cent in 2001 and the currency lost half its value after Erdogan's predecessor failed to follow an economic programme backed by the International Monetary Fund. Turkey has agreed to the outlines of a new three-year, US$10 billion accord with the IMF.
"There's tremendous confidence among investors in the government,'' says Mohamed El-Erian, who manages US$14 billion of emerging market debt at Pacific Investment Management Co. in Newport Beach, California. ''But we're underweight in Turkey because we don't see a smooth ride to EU membership.'' 
Turkey has more people than any existing member except Germany and per capita gross domestic product that is 27 per cent of the group's average, according to Luxembourg-based Eurostat. 
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, has recommended that the bloc begin negotiations with Turkey that could bring it into the group in 10 to 15 years. But Turkey, a relatively poor Muslim country of more than 70 million people, is unlikely to join the wealthy bloc before 2015 at the earliest time. 
The Brussels-based commission said the talks should be suspended if Turkey strays from the EU's political and economic standards. Turkey and the EU are still working to overcome divisions about Cyprus, immigration and farm policy. 

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Turkish Airlines IPO takes off

The initial public offering of the national carrier Turkish Airlines (THY) was to commence with newspaper and TV advertisements, Anatolia News Agency reported.
Turkey is offering a 20 per cent stake in THY to the public. THY said earlier that the size of the stake could be increased to 23 per cent with an additional sale. The THY stake is being offered to the public through a model, including preliminary demand collection and advantages such as payment in instalments. The state holds a 98.17 per cent stake in the company, and only 1.8 per cent is currently traded on the Istanbul Stock Exchange (IMKB). The planned sale is part of Ankara's faltering privatisation programme under its 19bn Euro loan accord with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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Russia's president to discuss Blue Stream pipeline during Turkish visit

Russia's President, Valdimir Putin, made the first visit to Turkey by a Russian head of state in 32 years recently. High on his agenda was oil and natural gas pipelines, Milliyet web site reported.
In talks held in Moscow prior to Putin's visit, the message was given that Russia welcomed the idea of extending the Blue Stream pipeline, which pumps natural gas to Turkey under the Black Sea to Ceyhan. It was decided to hold talks on the construction of a natural gas liquefying terminal in Ceyhan so that the natural gas arriving at the Mediterranean Sea port could be sold on to the world. This project will ensure that Ceyhan not only handles Caspian oil to come in via the Baku-Tbilisi pipeline, but will also become the centre for Russian natural gas. It will also enable Turkey to close its trade deficit from the Blue Stream project.
In the talks held by Putin with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan the matter of freeing the Istanbul Bosphorus from the threat posed by tanker traffic was discussed. 

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Turkish, Singapore ministers discuss cooperation, bilateral ties

Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, met recently Singaporean Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong. After their meeting, Gul and Tong held a joint press conference. Gul, in his part, said that Tong's visit would contribute to enhancement of bilateral relations between Turkey and Singapore. Foreign Minister Gul stated that it was possible to increase trade volume between two countries, currently around US$300m. They discussed cooperation between security and intelligence departments in the fight against terrorism during their meeting, Anatolia News Agency reported.
Gul expressed belief that two countries could cooperate in establishment of dialogue and bringing different religions and understandings together.
On the other hand, Tong said that he considered Turkey as a very important country since it was located in a region of strategic importance, and since it was both a secular and Muslim country. Expressing belief that the European Union (EU) would decide to open negotiations with Turkey, Tong hoped that bilateral relations between Singapore and Turkey would be further improved.
Tong said that he discussed with Gul how to increase airway connections between two countries.
Noting that countries could fight against terrorism in two ways, one of which was sharing intelligence, Tong said that he and Gul stressed importance of enhancement of cooperation between intelligence departments. 
Tong stated that he had briefed Gul on a proposal of improving dialogue among Asian countries, adding that Gul supported that proposal.

Turkey signs deal with N. Korea

Turkey recently signed a commercial and economic cooperation deal with North Korea, a country it recognised three years ago, a Turkish spokesman said, Anadolu News Agency reported. 
This deal was one of the first official agreements. The deal, which aims to boost bilateral trade, Tuncer Kayalar, and the North Korean Ambassador to Bulgaria, Kim Ha Dong, the spokesman for Kayalar's office said. Trade volume between the two countries stood at US$4m in 2003, which went up to €4.5m in the first nine months of last year, Turkey recognised North Korea in 2001 but neither country has opened an embassy on the other's territory. 

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Turkey, Tajikistan sign economic cooperation protocol

Turkey-Tajikistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) meeting was held recently in Ankara, Anatolia News Agency reported.
State Minister, Mehmet Aydin, lead the Turkish delegation while Economy and Trade Minister, Hakim Soliev, headed the Tajik delegation. 
Making opening remarks at the meeting, Aydin said that he believed they would agree on concrete projects during the JEC meetings to pave the way for both Turkish and Tajik businessmen to increase the existing cooperation potential between Turkey and Tajikistan. Noting that he considered Tajikistan as an important key within Turkey's Central Asia policy regarding the strategy for enhancement of trade with Turkey's neighbouring and surrounding countries, Aydin said: "We can benefit from our mutual potential in transportation, construction, mining, agriculture, leather and textile."
Tajik Economy and Trade Minister, Soliev, said that they would have the opportunity of discussing bilateral and multilateral relations during their visit to Turkey.
"A new Joint Economic Commission (JEC) protocol between Turkey and Tajikistan will contribute to improvement of bilateral trade volume," Turkish State Minister, Mehmet Aydin, said.
Aydin and Soliev signed the final protocol of the Turkish-Tajikistan JEC meeting.
At the signing ceremony, Aydin gave information about some important issues included in the protocol. "Signing partnership and cooperation agreement has primary importance. The target is to gather all economic and commercial issues." Aydin said they also decided to sign bilateral protocols to improve tourism, and noted that "trade volume between our two countries should be increased by taking every precaution". Turkish-Tajik Business Council will convene regularly, Aydin stressed, noting that "we also decided to increase activities of the small and medium scale enterprises. There is an important cooperation potential between the two countries in food, textile, ready-wear and leather."
Soliev said current commercial relations between Turkey and Tajikistan were not at a satisfactory level, noting that "our legal regulations offer all facilities for cooperation. We can increase our relations." Stating that joint efforts could be exerted by the private sectors particularly in areas of leather and wool, Soliev said: "We also want to make use of Turkey's experiences with free zones. We need this."

Turkey, Bahrain sign economic protocol

Turkey and Bahrain signed Joint Economic Commission (JEC) protocol in Ankara, Anatolia News Agency reported
Turkish Finance Minister, Kemal Unakitan, and Bahrain's Minister of Finance and National Economy, Abdallah Hasan al-Sayf, signed the protocol. 
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Unakitan said the talks took place in an atmosphere reflecting the joint determination of the governments of Turkey and Bahrain to turn actual trade and economic relations into permanent cooperation projects.
Unakitan said very important steps were taken to make use of the potential in commercial and economic relations and to increase trade volume.
Unakitan said the meeting was a historic step to turn relations between Turkey and Bahrain into a permanent partnership.
Unakitan said Bahrain expressed its wish to open an embassy in Turkey, stating that this would be one of the main topics that would be discussed during scheduled visit of the Prime Minister of Bahrain to Turkey.

Turkey expects trade volume with Russia to reach US$11bn - minister

Turkish State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen, said recently that Turkey wanted to define its relations with Russia regarding the future, Anatolia News Agency reported.
The Turkish-Russian Joint Economic Commission (JEC), which hasn't met for four years, convened in Russian capital of Moscow. Making a keynote speech, Tuzmen said that he expects year-end trade volume between the two countries to reach US$11bn.
Tuzmen went on to say: "The amount of investment by Turkish companies in Russia has exceeded US$2bn, while they have undertaken projects worth US$14bn in Russia. Our aim is to increase trade volume to US$25bn in three years, increase our investments by at least three-folds, and enhance our cooperation especially in the construction sector. Under a partnership and cooperation agreement which we may sign in a short time, we will not only improve our bilateral relations but also lay the ground for free movement of goods and services in the future."
Noting that they were working on an important project aimed at establishing a Turkish trade and investment zone in Russia, Tuzmen said: "Our aim is not to compete with Russian firms, but to enable investments by our companies in several areas, particularly textile in which Russia has some deficiencies. We expect Russia to support our project, and allocate us a piece of land to implement our project." Tuzmen added: "I think that the prior condition for a multi-dimensional partnership is to turn the Black Sea-Caspian Basin into a free trade zone, and carry out joint projects in the Central Asia and Caucasus. We have a road map for this project. We are ready to make efforts to implement all the commercial and economic provisions of the action plan on cooperation in Eurasia which we signed in November of 2001. It is our responsibility to make use of this opportunity."
On the other hand, Viktor Khristenko, the Russian minister of industry and energy, said: "We can cooperate in many areas such as industry and services. We will do our best to reach a trade volume of US$25bn in three years. We can also cooperate in energy and high technology areas." Khristenko wanted JEC meetings to be held every year from now on.

Turkish, Chinese deputy premiers agree to strengthen trade ties

China and Turkey have agreed to enhance bilateral economic and trade cooperation during talks recently between Chinese Vice-Premier, Huang Ju, and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah Gul. Sources with the Chinese Foreign Ministry disclosed that both sides expressed their willingness to strengthen cooperation in railways, telecommunications, infrastructure project engineering, two-way investment and tourism, Xinhua News Agency reported.
The Chinese side invited the Turkish President, Ahmed Necdet Sezer, to visit China next year. Gul reiterated the Turkish government's one-China policy, hoping that China can realize its reunification at an early date. Huang, who was on an official visit as Gul's guest, expressed his pleasure with the progress as a result of Turkey's efforts to join the European Union, and said he hoped that Turkey will play a more important role in international and regional affairs. 

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Iran-Turkey trade exchange boom

The value of Iran-Turkey trade exchanges is expected to increase up to €50m by the end of 2005, Anadolu News Agency reported.
According to a bilateral agreement signed by Iran and Turkey during the Turkish prime minister's visit to Iran, border trade of the two sides has increased to an eye-catching level. A source noted that the two sides have reviewed the list of importable and exportable goods and decreased the customs expenses to encourage border trade between Iran and Turkey. 

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Turkey, Tunisia sign free trade agreement

Turkey and Tunisia signed a Free Trade Agreement recently. The signatories of the agreement were Turkish State Minister, Kursad Tuzmen, and Tunisian Minister for Trade, Mondher Zenaidi, Anatolia News Agency reported. 
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Tuzmen said a new period would start between the two countries and stated: "We are sharing many values. We share the Mediterranean, the geography, religion and culture." Tuzmen said the Mediterranean would turn into a free trade zone with the agreement, adding: "As ministers, we fulfilled our responsibilities. The rest is up to the businessmen." 
Zenaidi said an important cornerstone is now in place as regards the relations between the two countries. Under the free trade agreement, customs taxes on different goods will be reduced in three stages and will be dropped to zero on some type of goods, which consist of 23 per cent of all goods traded between Turkey and Tunisia. 
Meanwhile, Tuzmen had bilateral meetings with several Tunisian ministers including Technology and Communication Minister, Montasser Ouaili. It has also been decided to form a working group including the private sector. 
Tuzmen also met Tunisian Foreign Minister, Abdelbaki Hermassi, and Equipment and Housing Minister, Samira Khayache Belhaj.
Tuzmen said Turkish contracting companies have business ties with 62 countries, stating that Turkey wanted to participate in the realization of infrastructure and superstructure projects of Tunisia.

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Turkey plans to build three nuclear power plants - minister

Turkish Energy & Natural Resources Minister, Hilmi Guler, said recently "we are planning to construct three nuclear power plants. They will be activated one after another as of 2011," Anatolia news agency reported. 
Guler visited the Nuclear Research Centre of the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) in Istanbul.
Speaking during the visit, Guler said, "if we fail to take necessary measures, Turkey could face a shortage of energy after 2010-2011. In that case, we would become dependent on foreign resources."
"In order to prevent such a shortage, we are planning to construct three nuclear power plants. These plants will meet 8-10 per cent of Turkey's energy requirement. A date has not been set for the tender," Guler added.

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Turkish governor, Georgian consul call for improved trade ties

Governor of Trabzon, Huseyin Yavuzdemir, has said that trade relations between Turkey and Georgia must be improved. Yavuzdemir received Georgia's Consul, General Nikoloz Gogitidze, at his office in Trabzon recently. Stressing that they will make an effort to improve the trade between Turkey and Georgia, he asserted, "We must improve our trade relations. The exchange of visits particularly by the two countries' chambers of commerce and chambers of industry will be useful." 
Governor Yavuzdemir said that a railway system to link Trabzon and Batumi would be useful for the improvement of relations and noted that the project for the laying of tracks between Hopa and Batumi will cost US$200m, Anatolia News Agency reported.
For his part, Consul General Gogitidze said that Georgia attaches significant importance to its relations with Turkey. Stressing that he believes Trabzon might play a leading role in the improvement of relations, he noted: "Batumi and Trabzon are sister cities. Both are traditionally port towns. I hope that the relations between Batumi and Trabzon will be an example to the other cities. I believe that the realization of the project for a railway system between Batumi and Trabzon, which has been on the agenda for a long time, will play an important role for the improvement of our relations."
Yavuzdemir presented a plaque to Gogitidze and Gogitidze presented a painting depicting Tbilisi to Yavuzdemir at the end of their talks.

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Turkish minister, Syrian politician discuss transport, Iraq

Abdallah al-Ahmar, Assistant Secretary-General of Syrian Ba'th Party, recently visited Turkish Transport Minister Binali Yildirim, Anatolia News Agency reported.
During the meeting, Yildirim said that Turkey and Syria did not have any problems in transportation. Drawing attention to incidents that occurred in Iraq, Yildirim said that the uneasiness of Turkish transporters about their life security had not been eliminated yet and noted that transporting needs of Iraqi people via Syria would be more secure.
Yildirim stated that Turkey could produce railways, train cars and locomotives, and said, "If Syria wants, we can establish a factory in Aleppo or any other city and train Syrian technicians in Turkey." On the other hand, Al-Ahmar said that transportation had great importance for the two countries since Syria could reach Europe via Turkey and Turkey could reach the Middle East via Syria.
Answering a question from one of the members of the Syrian delegation, Yildirim said that Turkey planned to privatise motorways. The Syrian delegation headed by Al-Ahmar visited the Mausoleum of Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.

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