Press release: Higher Education relations between UK and Turkey strengthening

Prof. Gökhan Çetinsaya, President, Council of Higher Education Turkey (YÖK), and Prof. Eric Thomas, President of Universities UK (UUK), signed a joint memorandum of understanding on December 13th, taking an important step towards strengthening academic ties between the two countries. The MoU was signed in the office of Rt Hon David Willetts, UK’s Minister of Universities and Science. The MoU between UUK and YÖK was supported by the British Council within the framework of the Knowledge Partnership Initiative that was signed in 2011 between UK and Turkey to increase trade and investment between UK and Turkey and collaborations in science, research and innovation.

Prof. Gökhan Çetinsaya went to London with a delegation from Turkey consisting of senior YÖK representatives and university rectors. During the visit, he spoke with various contacts about the internationalisation of higher education and quality assurance as well as the relationship between higher education and industry. The MoU signed between the two countries’ most influential agencies in higher education encompasses cooperation in all aspects of Higher Education

Çetinsaya talked about restructuring efforts being conducted in Turkish higher education. He touched on the importance of a diversified, multidirectional internationalisation instead of one dimensional internationalisation, saying that the memorandum of understanding they had signed would open up new opportunities for British and Turkish higher education. He stated that Turkey had, in the process of globalisation, begun to play a very important role globally in higher education due to its political power, regional influence, cultural heritage and rapid economic growth. He went on to say that this new MOU should be viewed in this context.

Prof. Gökhan Çetinsaya was accompanied by Prof. Mehmet Karaca, Rector of Istanbul Technical University (ITU), Prof Gülay Barbarosoğlu, Rector of Boğaziçi University, Prof. Murat Barkan, Rector of Yaşar University, Prof. Şenay Yalçın, Rector of Bahçeşehir University, Prof Tufan S. Buzpınar, Executive Board Member of YÖK and his Advisors at YÖK; Prof. Talip Küçükcan, Assoc. Prof. Fahrettin Altun, Prof. Bekir Gür and Recep Korkmaz.

 

Source: British Council

Britain and Turkey: a new special relationship

The case for a strong bilateral partnership between Britain and Turkey has never been stronger, writes William Hague on Telegraph.

Last year within three months of becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron arrived in Ankara. When asked “Why Turkey?” and, “Why so soon?” he said: because Turkey is vital for our economy, vital for our security and vital for our politics and our diplomacy.

Turkey is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. A young, energetic and entrepreneurial workforce – over half the population is under 29 years old – is an integral part of the success story. Analysts predict that Turkey will be one of the world’s top ten economies by 2050. As we recover from the current economic crisis, the case for a strong bilateral partnership between Britain and Turkey has never been stronger.

This week’s State Visit to the UK by Turkey’s President, Abdullah Gul, reminds us that Turkey is a country that is developing a new role and new links for itself, within and beyond existing structures and alliances. The UK and Turkey have a strong relationship across the range of foreign policy and security issues. Over the last 18 months we have laid firm foundations for that relationship through an ambitious Strategic Partnership which prompted the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to say that relations with the UK had entered a “golden age.” Indeed they have.

Since the Partnership was signed, we have established a UK-Turkey CEO Forum, composed of around 25 of the most senior business figures from our two countries to discuss the strategic issues that will deliver profitable business for the future. This week’s State Visit provides a platform for forging deeper commercial partnerships. By the end of this year, trade is expected to reach £9 billion, representing a 40% increase since 2009. British companies concerned about falling demand for their products should extend their reach now to Turkey. Many, such as Vodafone, Diageo and Tesco are already doing so.

Turkey is vital for our security: we work together as NATO allies across the world. In Afghanistan, we share the same objectives. Turkish troops and diplomacy are making vital contributions towards the creation of a more secure future, most recently with the valuable discussions at the Istanbul Conference on regional support for Afghanistan. Closer to home, in the Western Balkans we are working together to secure the gains made in the last 16 years to bring stability to the region

Turkey’s important role in the Middle East and North Africa region is clear. Many of those who have taken to the streets during the Arab Spring for a more just, representative form of government have, in Turkey, a very successful example of modern democracy in a largely Muslim country. I’m struck by the contrast between the anxiety in some quarters about the EU’s future role in the world, and the self-confident approach Turkey has taken in recent months to driving forward international collaboration on issues ranging from Afghanistan to Somalia. On Syria, Turkey has played an important role, pressing the regime to stop the violence and engaging with international partners, particularly the Arab League, to intensify wider pressure on Assad.

It’s clear that the UK and our fellow Member States in the EU will have to contend with rapid change and uncertainty in our neighbourhood, across north Africa to central Asia, in the coming years. Few countries are better placed to influence events in this vital region than Turkey. We already benefit from this. My Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, is making active and astute contributions on issues at the heart of the EU’s foreign policy agenda.

Since the launch of EU accession negotiations in 2005, Turkey has taken important strides towards meeting EU standards on human rights, democracy and governance. Turkey has abolished the death penalty, introduced a zero-tolerance approach to torture, improved rights for women and minority groups and, most recently, taken steps to compensate religious foundations. There is still some way to go, but the Turkish Government has committed itself to further progress through a new constitution that will meet the aspirations and demands of a modern democracy and truly represent the interests of all citizens of Turkey. And we want to encourage our Turkish friends to do even more.

And we want to send a message of a full support for energetic Turkish negotiations with the EU. It is deeply disappointing that these have been grindingly slow. If they continue with the same tempo the risk is that Turkish public opinion, traditionally in favour of entry into the EU, will turn against it and an historic opportunity will have been spurned. This is in no-one’s interest. I call on Turkey to keep its patience and determination to join the EU, and also on our EU partners to keeping working towards a goal that is in our common interests.

Economic uncertainty within the EU and political uncertainty on the continent’s southern and eastern borders should be pulling the EU and Turkey together, not pushing them apart. Turkish accession would bring fresh energy to the Single Market. Europe’s influence overseas needs the leverage that a successful democracy in a largely Muslim country would bring. Together, as I believe this week’s State Visit will demonstrate, the UK and Turkey can help chart a safe course through the current global political and economic storm.

William Hague is the Foreign Secretary.

Source: Telegraph

Conservative Friends of Turkey: Relations with UK must be stronger

The Conservative Friends of Turkey hosted a fringe meeting on Monday at the annual Conservative Party conference that featured as speakers Turkish Ambassador to the UK Ünal Çeviköz, Minister for Europe David Lidington and Dr Gülnur Aybet of the University of Kent. 
Under the title “Turkey-UK Strategic Partnership in a Changing World”, the meeting discussed how Turkey’s new role as a regional mediator was challenging whilst is also improving. Additionally, the panel praised Turkey’s increasing internal democratisation.
Dr Onur Çetin, who founded the Conservative Friends of Turkey, opened the meeting. The audience was reminded by Ambassador Çeviköz of the new strategic partnership agreement signed between Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and British Prime Minister David Cameron last July. David Lidington reaffirmed the idea that Turkey’s relationship with the UK is imperative, particularly as the Turkish economy increases in prosperity and as Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East and Central Asia becomes more crucial.
Turkey in the West
Dr Aybet, an expert in international relations, rejected the notion that it is distinctive of Turkish foreign policy to follow anti-Western rhetoric before entering into a coalition. “Turkish foreign policy is not that easy to read; it is not that simple,” she said.
“The NATO intervention in Libya and Turkey’s role in this has to be seen differently from the confusion as micro and macro roles,” she said, adding that Turkey was not the weaker partner in the intervention and did not hesitate to work with the intervention because of their supposed relationship with Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. Rather, “it was a continuation of Turkish policy,” she said.
Dr Aybet asserted, “Turkey has always been reluctant to get involved in regional conflicts or Western intervention, so it was a very traditional foreign policy.” She argued that Turkey only began to take a leading role in order to prevent an Anglo-French alliance that was to work outside of the NATO coalition. Turkey, she said, wanted to contribute on humanitarian terms.
However, she added that the EU must “be careful in how they talk about Turkish foreign policy in public.”
She stressed that Turkey is not dependent on EU accession and a Western alliance, and warned that Turkey could find alternative regional deals if the West fails to implement a coherent strategy. The West needs to “start treating Turkey as a regional partner rather than a functional ally,” she said.
She noted that the UK frequently stepped in as the “balancing actor” when Turkey’s relations with the US “have been strained”. She said, “The UK has been a consistent supporter of Turkey’s UK bid.”
Improving relations
When asked whether Turkey’s relationship with the UK was deeper than a mere strategic alliance, Lidington replied that “it certainly needs to be a lot deeper than that. And I know that the prime minister’s intention is that it should be deeper than that.”
Praising Turkey’s booming economy, Lidington said Turkey has growth rates “that the European leaders can only envy.”
On the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU, Lidington affirmed the UK’s support for Turkey’s bid, declaring, “We remain committed to the Turkish accession.”

Under the title “Turkey-UK Strategic Partnership in a Changing World”, the meeting discussed how Turkey’s new role as a regional mediator was challenging whilst is also improving. Additionally, the panel praised Turkey’s increasing internal democratisation.

Dr Onur Çetin, who founded the Conservative Friends of Turkey, opened the meeting. The audience was reminded by Ambassador Çeviköz of the new strategic partnership agreement signed between Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and British Prime Minister David Cameron last July. David Lidington reaffirmed the idea that Turkey’s relationship with the UK is imperative, particularly as the Turkish economy increases in prosperity and as Turkey’s strategic role in the Middle East and Central Asia becomes more crucial.

Turkey in the West 

Dr Aybet, an expert in international relations, rejected the notion that it is distinctive of Turkish foreign policy to follow anti-Western rhetoric before entering into a coalition. “Turkish foreign policy is not that easy to read; it is not that simple,” she said.

“The NATO intervention in Libya and Turkey’s role in this has to be seen differently from the confusion as micro and macro roles,” she said, adding that Turkey was not the weaker partner in the intervention and did not hesitate to work with the intervention because of their supposed relationship with Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. Rather, “it was a continuation of Turkish policy,” she said.

Dr Aybet asserted, “Turkey has always been reluctant to get involved in regional conflicts or Western intervention, so it was a very traditional foreign policy.” She argued that Turkey only began to take a leading role in order to prevent an Anglo-French alliance that was to work outside of the NATO coalition. Turkey, she said, wanted to contribute on humanitarian terms.

However, she added that the EU must “be careful in how they talk about Turkish foreign policy in public.”

She stressed that Turkey is not dependent on EU accession and a Western alliance, and warned that Turkey could find alternative regional deals if the West fails to implement a coherent strategy. The West needs to “start treating Turkey as a regional partner rather than a functional ally,” she said.

She noted that the UK frequently stepped in as the “balancing actor” when Turkey’s relations with the US “have been strained”. She said, “The UK has been a consistent supporter of Turkey’s UK bid.”

Improving relations

When asked whether Turkey’s relationship with the UK was deeper than a mere strategic alliance, Lidington replied that “it certainly needs to be a lot deeper than that. And I know that the prime minister’s intention is that it should be deeper than that.”

Praising Turkey’s booming economy, Lidington said Turkey has growth rates “that the European leaders can only envy.”

On the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU, Lidington affirmed the UK’s support for Turkey’s bid, declaring, “We remain committed to the Turkish accession.”

Source: Zaman

Promising Future for British-Turkish Relations

As Turkish-EU relations are strained, Turkey will seek closer links with EU countries with which it has an already good rapport. This gives the UK a superb chance to advance its ties with Turkey.

Both the current and previous British governments are aware of the importance of Turkish-British relations: The UK has consistently and wholeheartedly supported Turkish membership to the EU, a policy that continues today. Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Turkey in 2008, the first time Her Majesty visited the country since 1971, was a successful relationship-building exercise. President Abdullah Gül and his wife are scheduled to visit the UK as guests of the Queen in the near future.

When David Cameron visited Turkey in his first foreign visit in July 2010, it sent positive signals to the Turkish state. The visit resulted in the signing of a new Strategic Partnership Agreement and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke of the “golden age” of Turkish-British relations. Mr. Cameron’s trip has been followed by less public visits by Defense Secretary Liam Fox, Lord Mayor of London Michael Bear, Trade Minister Lord Stephen Green, Lord James Sassoon from Her Majesty’s Treasury and Martin Donnelly from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

At the economic level, there is room for a major expansion of trade between the two countries. The UK government made the same point in a White Paper titled “Trade and Investment for Growth” in February 2011, noting that the UK is aiming to double its current trade with Turkey from a base of 9 billion pounds by 2015.

The trade between the two countries has been on a steady increase since 2001. The Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) recorded a total volume of $4 billion in 2001, which has seen a major increase since 2003, quickly reaching $10 billion in 2005 and $14 billion in 2007. While 2008 and 2009 saw a drop in trade in line with the global recession, it rose again to an estimated $11 billion in 2010. The British High Commission in Ankara noted a steady increase of British direct investment into Turkey, from $141 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion in 2008, in its Country Updates for Business briefing released in July 2011.

Turkey not only produces goods consumed in the British market but as its economy and consumer confidence grows, so does demand for high-end consumer goods, in which Britain excels. Investments in Turkey by British companies and individuals have been by and large positive as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government undertook significant reforms to ease foreign direct investment to the country. There is also a trend of high level investments by Turkish companies in the UK.

Turkey is also keen to expand the markets from which it buys military supplies as its relations with Israel remain strained and there is a danger of unhealthy dependence on the US. This provides a great opening for UK companies to pursue defense contracts in Turkey, a fact which was highlighted when Fox visited Turkey. A positive sign of this was the 12.1 million euro contract won by British Ultra Electronics to provide a torpedo defense system for Turkish submarines.

Turkey’s policy of being a neutral energy route between multiple suppliers for consumption in Europe has important positive outcomes for British energy needs. A diversity of suppliers will counter European vulnerability to volatile Russian energy provisions.

At the political level, enhanced British-Turkish relations also have domestic and diplomatic benefits for the UK. Currently, the scope of British engagement in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains limited and problematic. With closer ties with Turkey, the UK would be able to assert influence and expand and secure its interests in the region. With closer relations on intelligence-sharing and combined security initiatives, a partnership would bring major benefits to ongoing concerns over human and narcotics trafficking, as well as organized crime and terrorism. This was a major point raised by the UK’s Home Affairs Committee in its report “Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union,” released on Aug. 1, 2011.

It is clear that the British government is on the right path regarding its Turkey policy. However, there are major areas that need to be addressed. More social and educational initiatives have to be launched in order to bolster societal ties. The speedy tightening of UK visa regulations is damaging the process. Britain not only has to accelerate its efforts to recruit a growing number of Turkish students to study in the UK, it also has to ensure that the current changes to student visas and temporary work permits that enable recent graduates to get job experience in the UK do not hinder the appeal of Britain, thus causing a loss of market share in education.

While special treaties such as the Ankara agreement between Britain and Turkey have sought to bolster economic links by allowing Turkish workers to set up business ventures, such accords are not enough and have often led to irregular migration. A more robust policy to attract highly skilled Turkish workers to Britain would be key to enabling British companies to deal with the fast-growing Turkish market.

Source: Today’s Zaman, Ziya Meral