Turkey-Macedonia economic ties should boost on heels of shared culture: Turkish PM
SKOPJE – Anadolu Agency
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) and his Macedonian counterpart Nikola Gruevski attend a press conference in the Government building in Skopje on December 23, 2014. AA PhotoClose cultural ties between Turkey and Macedonia are valuable for business and the two countries should elevate their economic relations to the level their historic partnership deserves, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said while visiting Macedonia.
“These lands are no stranger to us. The culture and texture of these lands are part of our culture and texture. This cultural closeness is important for the business world,” Davutoğlu said during a working breakfast with the representatives of Turkey-Macedonia Chamber of Commerce on Dec. 23, the second day of his visit to the Macedonian capital of Skopje.
“Macedonia has an atmosphere where one can easily communicate with everybody like they are in Anatolia. This is significant in terms of economic relations,” he said.
However, Davutoğlu expressed reproach that the two countries’ trade and investment relations are not at the desired level.
“Turkey currently ranks 13th in Macedonia’s exports. On the other hand, our exports to Macedonia are at eighth place. I wouldn’t even accept second place in Macedonia-Turkey relations,” he stated.
Once again referring to the shared history and culture of Macedonians and Turks, as well as the warm political ties between the governments, Davutoğlu said “economic relations should be at the highest level, considering the intensity of cultural and political relations.”
“If you were to ask me whether the statistics show our relationship in other fields, it doesn’t,” he stressed, noting he thinks there are enough materials to upgrade Turkish-Macedonian trade volume to a record level.
He also vowed to do whatever necessary to realize the long-lasting trade volume target of $1 billion, recalling the countries’ trade volume was at around $375 million in the 10 months of this year.
Dubbing Macedonia as the “heart of the Balkans,” Davutoğlu also said Ankara should plan its economic relations with Skopje regarding the country as a natural extension of Turkey.
“When there is political stability – which we have always supported Macedonia for – when there is peace and stability in the Balkans, it [Macedonia] is one of the countries that have become most important as a future economic hub. Today, there might be some problems regarding the country’s economic balances, and issues with its relations with the European Union, being the name of the country on top. However, we see this country as a natural extension of Turkey, a country integrated with Turkey, and we need to plan our strategic investments according to this,” he said.
Prime ministers meet
Later in the day, Davutoğlu held a bilateral meeting with his Macedonian counterpart, Nikola Gruevski, which was followed by a meeting with their delegations.
Both meetings were closed to the press, but the leaders briefed reporters shortly ahead of their tête-à-tête meeting.
When Gruevski pointed at the intense press interest for the meeting, Davutoğlu said: “The attention rises when the issue is Turkey-Macedonia. Moreover, it is my first visit to the Balkans, the former Republic of Yugoslavia, after becoming the prime minister.”
When Gruevski reminded Davutoğlu he was the first prime minister to visit Davutoğlu after he assumed office in late August, Davutoğlu said the two countries’ relationship is marked by several firsts.
“Turkey appointed the first ambassador to Skopje. It was the first country that recognized Macedonia with its constitutional name. And you were the first prime minister who visited me. Now, I am responding to that gesture,” he said.