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Barçın Yinanç Barçın Yinanç barcin.yinanc@hurriyet.com.tr

Turkish and Russian business people no longer want to deliberately breach the law by traveling as tourists, as visa requirements have been lifted for touristic visits following an agreement between Turkey and Russia in 2011.

“If you say by mistake that you are going to travel for business purposes; then you don’t get a visa,” President and CEO of Denizbank Hakan Ateş said yesterday.

“Business is at least as important as tourism,” said Ateş, who played an important role in the purchase of Denizbank by the Russian Sberbank.

He was talking at a panel organized jointly by Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) and the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD).

Rauf Kasumov, deputy director general of the company that will build the nuclear energy plant in Akkuyu supported Ateş’s comment, saying that he was actually breaching the law when he traveled to Turkey.

The panel, organized ahead of the SPİEF, which will be held on June 22, brought officials and representatives of the business communities from the two countries.

The trade imbalance in favor of Russia in the 35 billion dollar trade volume again dominated the discussion, with only a few participants coming up with substantial proposals to alleviate the asymmetry, which also stems from Turkey’s purchase of crude oil and natural gas.

Bureaucracy got a large share of the blame for this state of affairs. Compared to the late 1980s both countries have come a long way in terms of improving bureaucracy, said Tayfun Bayazıt, vice president of the board of directors of TÜSİAD. However, there is still room for improvement. “In terms of customs and investment we need to reach global standards. That’s why Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organization will be a step in the right direction,” he said.

Turkey’s relations with the European Union will remain important, independent of the difficulties currently faced by the 27 nation bloc, Bayazıt added, after being asked by the panel’s moderator to comment on Ankara’s EU bid.

The EU is also important for improving Turkey’s democratic standards, he said, after he was asked to comment on the effects of the possibility that current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin would continue to lead their countries into the future.

March/22/2013

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