Turkey reverses decision not to attend EXPO 15
Serkan Demirtaş ANKARA
A personal phone call from Italian President Matteo Renzi to congratulate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over his presidential election victory helped convince Turkey to reverse its decision not to attend EXPO 2015.Turkey backtracked from its decision not to attend EXPO 2015, the world’s largest public exhibition to take place in Milan, after Italian President Matteo Renzi personally congratulated Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidential victory.
The warm conversation between the two presidents resulted in Erdoğan’s removal of his veto on Turkish participation to the EXPO. The original veto had been issued in February, after Italy backed Dubai instead of Izmir for the EXPO 2020 bid.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a verbal note to the Italian government to confirm the change of decision, the Hürriyet Daily News has learned from diplomatic sources. The same sources indicated that this change was a direct result of the phone conversation between the two leaders.
Italy is currently serving as term president of the EU until the end of this year.
The technical details of Turkey’s participation in the EXPO are still evolving and will be decided during a technical mission, the sources stressed. Turkey has requested the same stand and space it had been granted by Italy before canceling its participation in February, despite the fact that the space has been given to another country.
President removes PM’s veto
Turkey’s EXPO participation process has involved interesting foreign policy negotiations. The decision not to attend the EXPO was directly issued by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan. The foreign ministry was fully unaware of the decision and therefore of the process. When the Italian government approached the government to understand the cancellation, they were told about economic reasons although the main incentive was Italy’s decision to back Dubai instead of İzmir for the 2020 EXPO.
The Italian government then renewed its proposal to Turkey by making an important reduction of the cost Turkey had to pay for the stand and space from 15 million euros to 9 million. They did not receive a positive response from Erdoğan’s prime ministry, and this process occurred outside of the foreign ministry’s knowledge.
Renzi’s warm congratulatory phone call to Erdoğan and demand for Turkish participation in the EXPO brought about a positive response from President Erdoğan, who later informed the government to initiate the necessary procedures. This summarizes President Erdoğan’s turn from his own decision in his former capacity as prime minister.
İzmir and Milan had competed for the 2015 EXPO, ending with the Italian city’s victory. Turkey and Italy signed a Participation Protocol in 2012 for the EXPO, which will take place between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2015.
Italy’s term presidency
Another reason why Erdoğan removed the veto could be Turkey’s renewed aspiration to accelerate the EU process and to open a negotiation chapter during Italy’s EU term presidency. Recently, Italy and Turkey have largely enjoyed good relations, and the former has traditionally been an advocate of Turkish accession to the European Union.
Italy took over the term presidency of the EU on July 1 and will likely play a crucial role in managing the bid to repair strained Ankara-Brussels relations.