The common benefits that can be profitable for the both countries. The same approaches to solve many international issues. 26 years of fruitful cooperation. Principal support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine – these important aspects exclusively for the FD are highlighted by the Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in Ukraine Yönet Can Tezel.
Be so kind to inform us about the start of the bilateral cooperation between our states?
Turkey and Ukraine are neighbours over the Black Sea. Our populations if put together are over 120 million people. Both countries have comparative advantages that can benefit the other side. We see eye to eye on many international issues. Turkey supports strongly Ukraine’s reform process and its territorial integrity. We were one of the first countries to recognize Ukraine’s independence. And we have historical links. For all these reasons, we enjoy a very good basis for bilateral cooperation. Admittedly, we still have to work on realizing the very big potential that exists. But things have been moving forward. And the political will, that is a key, is there. Our Presidents meet, along with their Ministers, every year in the framework of High Level Strategic Council.
What can you define as priorities in the political cooperation between Ukraine and Turkey?
Turkey is for a well-reformed, independent Ukraine that stands on its feet, free to follow the democratic aspirations of its people. Ukraine’s integration with Europe and Transatlantic institutions is a choice we respect and support. We want a united, inclusive Ukraine which preserves its territorial integrity including Crimea. That is a priority for us. In the case of Crimea, we are additionally concerned about the situation of Crimean Tatars and other Crimeans facing serious difficulties. These are issues that we cooperate in political way. Also, we want to keep the Black Sea as an area of cooperation, not of rivalry. There are many opportunities in this region. We have meetings between our Foreign Ministries and other Ministries at various levels to take forward our cooperation. The complementarity that exists between our countries renders cooperation and joint work very logical and mutually beneficial. When our top officials meet, quite a few regional and international issues are taken up, as should be between strategic partners.
What can be offered for the business of your country in Ukraine?
Turkish business in Ukraine shares our Government’s belief in the future of Ukraine. Through their entrepreneurial experience, they are able to offer quality products and services at competitive prices. That is why despite problems, many companies remained in Ukraine. And there is a positive change in the business climate here. But not everything is rosy; some old habits and practices are still there. Strange administrative and legal practices are the main complaints of Turkish companies. What they want is not any privileges; they just want fair competition conditions and the possibility to have legal remedies when they are wronged. When a few of them run into problems, the word gets around and this discourages potential investors from Turkey. I look for positive stories to show as examples; I am happy when I find them. But I also get negative stories. Ukrainian authorities are trying to change this, I know. Maybe more time is needed to change some things; still every delay is a loss for this generation. Quick, drastic measures to ensure fair competition are not always easy, but they are necessary. Ukrainian big businesses need to be more confident. Turkish companies could be partners for them to open up to the world. Ukraine’s full potential will be realizable as fair competition becomes the only game in town.
How would you assess the humanitarian cooperation between our states?
Turkey has been helping Ukraine also through TİKA, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, which has been active in many parts of Ukraine. Unfortunately, they are not active in Crimea since the annexation. The TİKA office in Kyiv has supported some 400 projects across Ukraine over the last years, ranging from humanitarian assistance to healthcare, infrastructure development, sanitation, education, etc. Our concern with the situation of the Crimean Tatars is one of my main dossiers in the Embassy. Unfortunately our access to Crimea has been severed after the illegal annexation. At the same time, we help the Crimean Tatars in the mainland in line with the request of the Ukrainian Government. Humanitarian assistance, especially for displaced people, has also been taken up in the yearly strategic meetings between the two Presidents. Turkey will be helping in this field. Cultural ties between Turkey and Ukraine are also very important; this historical and cultural background was somewhat forgotten in the 20th century. We want to bring more to the surface of our common historical and cultural heritage in Ukraine, including castles, artifacts etc. dating back to the Ottoman-Turkish period. Fortunately we now have an additional opportunity: The Yunus Emre Institute, which is like Göthe Institute or British Council, has recently opened an office in central Kyiv at Pushkinska Street 28. This cultural centre is a wonderful venue for advancing Turkish-Ukrainian cultural ties. They have already started Turkish language courses at various levels. Several cultural events are in the progress. Unfortunately, in the absence, previously, of such a legitimate cultural institution under the umbrella of the Embassy, some groups pretending to represent Turkish culture were active. For Ukrainians who want to get proper Turkish language instruction with legitimate certificates and who want to learn more about Turkish culture and history, Yunus Emre Institute is the right place. They also cooperate with Ukrainian universities, including in the field of Turkish language education.
How would you assess the investment of Turkish business into Ukrainian economy?
Turkish investments into Ukraine are much below what they could be. We have big investors in telecommunications and infrastructure. Agriculture and energy are also growing. But more is desirable and possible. To bring new investments, I think the first thing is to resolve the problems of present investors and companies. Resolution of lingering problems will have positive ripple effects, showing that the new Ukraine is really happening. As I tried to say in my answer to question 3, Turkish business just wants normal business climate in Ukraine. The comparative advantages and complementarity of our economies, our closeness, familiarity and the willingness of the Ukrainian government to attract investments are all conducive to great business opportunities from both sides.
Which were your first impressions of Ukraine and its people?
Frankly, I did not know much about Ukraine and Ukrainian people. But as one gets to know them, it is difficult not to like the country and the people. They are mostly modest. Like all societies, the Ukrainians have different views and different means among them. But they are mostly tolerant. They are open and not as prejudiced as some other people in Europe. Political and socio-economic conditions always affect society and put pressure on people; but the core of the Ukrainian society is very likeable. And that core is everywhere. As for Ukraine itself; I know that it is a cliché, but the first thing to say about Ukraine is its potential, including its human resources. I also believe that history has not been fair to Ukraine. Now there is the chance to change that.
Do you travel a lot through Ukraine?
Unfortunately I have not travelled enough within Ukraine, I regret that. I have been to the major cities but I have not discovered the countryside sufficiently. And unfortunately I have not been able to see Crimea.
What do you like most of all in our country?
This is a difficult question; one does not want to be unfair to so many good things. I do like the general mood across the country; that certain sprit among the people despite serious challenges and hardships; the absence of a sense of panic. Of course this is problematic if it goes too far in the case of some people. I would like to see more optimism and enthusiasm in such people, a greater belief in themselves and their country and a greater readiness to work for this goal.
Now Ukraine is suffering because of the hard times. What would you like to wish the readers of our magazine?
In addition to peace, which is my first wish, I wish higher standards, politically, economically and socially. This can come about through practices of good-governance. I wish Ukraine the accurate possibility to realize its great potential. And that possibility is within reach, it just needs to be fully ceased. I wish success in building the new Ukraine. That new Ukraine is also in our interest.