Büyükelçi Ali Yakıtal'ın İngilizce Konuşanlar Birliği'nin 29 Eylül 2011 tarihindeki Wellington toplantısında yaptığı Modern Turkey konulu konuşma
Dear Mr Graham Butterworth
Dear Members of the Wellington English Speaking Union,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to start my words by thanking you for inviting me to the ESU traditional
luncheon to give brief information about Turkey.
For millions English is the key to personal achievement in the arts, business, politics and
technology. The language has never been more needed, its uses more varied, its
contribution to international friendship and co-operation more vital. Therefore, as a French
Speaking diplomat, I attach importance to ESU’s vision which is to provide people with
communication skills, confidence and networking opportunities.
Today, I will talk about “Modern Turkey”, Turkey’s achievements in the political and
economic area as well as general principles of its foreign policy. But I don’t want to start my
speech without mentioning the excellent relations existing between Turkey and New
In fact, the relations between our nations which have transformed into a lasting friendship
from the sad experiences of the Çanakkale Land Battles are exemplary in many aspects. This
characteristic of our friendship provides a solid base to strengthen and grow bilateral
relationship across a range of fields to the mutual benefits of our peoples.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Turkey, as the cradle of civilizations and home to multi-religious, multiethnic and
multicultural empires for centuries embodies vast experience in social diversity.
The efforts for modernization that began 200 years ago during the Ottoman Empire, have
gained momentum after the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey under the leadership of
Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, besides being a military genius, a charismatic leader,
was also a comprehensive reformer. It was then essential for the Republic of Turkey to be
westernized in order to progress towards the level of contemporary civilizations and to be an
active member of culturally developed communities.
The new Turkish State founded in 1920 required a new legal system. Ataturk, adopted the
Swiss Civil Code as a substitute for Canonical Law (theological religious law-Seriat Kanunu),
and instead of the penal code then in force, he brought in the Italian Penal Code. Hence, the
Turkish legal system was modernized with the contemporary requirements.
As a result of such a modification, secularism, one of the fundamentals of Modern Turkey,
signifying the complete separation of government and religious affairs, was adopted. That
was not an easy task. Even today, there is no country other than Turkey to have clearly
established secularism as the basis of the state ideology, and no other country has been able
to bring together and maintain an Islamic society and secularism.
Mustafa Kemal’s revolution has not been limited to this, and there have been further
decisive attempts to carry out sweeping reforms which could be called Cultural Revolution.
Another important attempt that deserve special mention is the liberation of women in 1934
through bestowing the rights upon women to participate in elections.
One of the most significant reforms of Ataturk was the abolition of the use of the Arabic
script and the adoption of the Latin script. In 1928 the new Turkish Alphabet was adopted.
Many other reforms had been achieved other than those already mentioned. As an example:
In 1924 the Weekend Act, in 1925 International Time and Calendar System, in 1926
Obligation Law and Commercial law, in 1933 System of Measures keeping with the western
and in 1934 the Surname Act--making it a requirement for all to have a last name.
Atatürk, had dedicated all his life to raising Turkey to the same level as the modern West. As
a result of the reforms, Turkey's economic structure was completely changed. With the
annulment of capitulations, fundamentals needed to secure a national and liberal economy
The developments in the globe following the dissolution the Eastern Block in the beginning
of 1990s, have imposed on us to carry out new reforms in the political and economic area.
The main purpose of these reforms carried out during the last decade has been to raise the
living standards of our people and to promote social cohesion.
Through the work that has been done, the channels for public dialogue between the “state
which represents” and the “people who are represented” were broadened and the state
provided for security by ensuring peace and prosperity for its people.
First of all, Turkey was able to cover great distance in overcoming income disparity by
controlling chronic inflation and ending spiraling interest rates through the reforms
implemented in the aftermath of the economic crisis in the beginning of the 2000s. We
ensured that all parts of society benefited from economic growth.
Turkey also created greater efficiency in the market economy. The economy was built to
withstand strong internal and external shocks.
In this process, we removed barriers to free enterprise and investments and established
strong rules to ensure a sound and transparent functioning of the market. As a result, Turkey
is one of the few countries in the world that was affected at a minimum by the 2008 global
economic crisis which had a very strong impact on many countries.
In the political field, Turkey strengthened the institutions that ensure democracy,
transparency, rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities through the reforms
carried out. Turkey covered great distance in terms of complying with pluralistic democratic
There are still steps we need to take in order to broaden the scope of our democracy, raise
its standards to a competent and mature level and increase democratic participation.
As a result of these reforms, our democracy grew stronger through political and legal
reforms that broadened fundamental rights and freedoms. This led to greater confidence in
Turkey and growing investments created a positive impact on our economy.
The strides Turkey has been making in reinforcing even further its democracy are being
followed with interest by many countries. Turkey boasts a Constitution which not only
foresees gender equality but also tasks the Government to ensure its materialization. In fact
Turkey, constitutes an exemplary country with regard to gender equality and in providing
rights to women in the social and political life. At this point, I would like to underline that,
Women in Turkey have been granted right to vote and to stand for elections in 1934, earlier
than many other countries.
Turkey currently represents the 16th largest economy in the world, the 6th largest economy
in Europe thanks to its robust economic and financial structure. With its high performance,
Turkey is steadily heading for an annual GDP of 1 trillion dollars. According to OECD, Turkey
is expected to be the fastest growing economy among OECD members during 2011-2017,
with an annual average growth rate of %6.7. Turkey has come out of global economic crises
of 2008 and 2009 much more rapidly than many countries. In 2010, Turkey has been the
third fastest growing economy of the world with an 8.9% growth rate.
Turkey is 7th top tourism destination across the globe. From 2001 to 2010 the number of
foreign tourist visiting Turkey increased from 11 million to 28.6 million. The tourism
revenues for the same period increased from 7.4 billion dollars to 15.6 billion dollars. These
numbers make Turkey 7th in terms of visiting tourists and 8th in terms of tourism revenues
in the world. Turkey has, not only infrastructure for seaside tourism, but also for health,
culture, faith, congress, sports, and archaeological tourism.
With its population of more than 73 million, its dynamic and open-market economy,
competitive industry and the Custom Union with the EU for more than 15 years, Turkey is an
attractive country for foreign investors. During the last 8 years, the total inflow of foreign
direct investments has reached to 93.6 billion US dollars.
Turkey’s annual trade volume is around 300 billion dollars and rising. Its exports increased
nine times in the last 20 year reaching 114 billion dollars in 2010.
Turkey’s population is young, dynamic and well-trained. 61% of the population is under the
age of 34. Today there are approximately 35 million internet users, 62 million GSM users, 46
million credit card user and 500 thousand university graduates every year from 156
Turkey takes more confident steps in democratization and towards becoming a modern
state as a result of the economic reforms that have led to greater financial means while
taking on important regional and global responsibilities. In this framework, Turkey has been
enhancing its foreign aid programs with significant increases in the technical and
humanitarian assistance it provides to all corners of the globe. Turkey’s official development
assistance has exceeded 3.4 billion US Dollars in the last 5 years.
Turkey is one of the converging points of the major East-West energy transportation routes.
Turkey is a bridge to the world. With a 4 hour flight from Istanbul, one can reach, over 50
countries; one and a half billion people, an economic area worth 25 trillion USD. In addition
to the already existing pipelines linking Asian energy to Western markets, a number of new
projects are being worked upon. 70 % of the world’s hydrocarbon resources are around
Turkey is a hub for international cooperation through the hosting of major international
conferences and events. Such occasions in recent years included the OSCE Summit, the UN-
HABITAT Summit, the World Water Forum, the CICA Summit, the ECO Summit, and the
Alliance of Civilizations Forum, just to name a few; as well as numerous other summit-level
meetings of regional and/or thematic character. In May 2011 Istanbul hosted the 4th LDC
Summit simultaneously with the ceremonies to mark the end of Turkey's Presidency at the
Council of Europe. These two events brought together over ten thousand participants.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The fundamental principle of Turkish foreign policy is “Peace at Home and Peace in the
World”. Turkey pursues a “zero problem with neighbors” policy.
Turkey tries to have a constructive dialogue with all of its neighbors. We have established
new and enhanced the existing partnerships with the emerging powers in new geographies
like Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Turkey has strengthened its relationships with its
Western partners too.
As I have mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Turkey began “westernizing” its
economic, political and social structures in the 19th century. Following the First World War
and the proclamation of the Republic in 1923, it chose Western Europe as the model for its
new secular structure.
Ever since Turkey has closely aligned itself with the West and has become a founding
member of the United Nations, a member of NATO, the Council of Europe, the OECD, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and an associate member of the
Turkey-EU relations are built on many agreements all aiming at full membership. Turkey
become an associate member in 1963, Turkey and EU initiated the Customs Union in 1995,
Turkey was granted candidate status in 1999 and accession negotiations started in 2005.
Turkey is fully committed to the EU accession process and the EU membership remains a
strategic goal for Turkey. Unfortunately, Turkey’s accession process has been compromised
for short term political gains by some member countries.
The current situation is not acceptable or sustainable. There are 35 chapters in the
negotiations list, 2 of these chapters will be finalized at the last stage. Out of the remaining
33 chapters, 13 of them have been opened. However, 7 chapters of accession talks are
blocked due to political reasons. The accession process should be allowed to run its course.
This is EU’s contractual obligation. Turkey cannot accept double standards. EU leaders must
display visionary leadership and start acting upon it.
Turkey will continue to pursue a multi-dimensional foreign policy without eroding its
traditional strong ties with its friends, allies and partners in the West. No country is our
adversary or enemy. There might be countries with which we have some problems. Still, we
wish to solve our problems through dialogue and cooperation.
Occasionally it is claimed that there is a shift in the axis of Turkish foreign policy. They
suggest that there is a change in our foreign policy priorities and focus. These claims and
suggestions are not true. A country’s values determine its foreign policy. For Turkey, this has
not changed. As a secular and functioning democracy based on the rule of law, free
elections, human rights and freedoms, free market economy and a lively civil society, Turkey
represents, upholds and promotes universal values.
I would like to conclude my words by thanking again the Wellington ESU, for giving me this
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