11. Cumhurbaşkanı Abdullah Gül’ün, Tunus’ta “Teşebbüs ve Devletin Yeni Rolü" Etkinliğinde Yaptığı Konuşma

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Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentleman,


I am honoured to participate in this meeting for the second time, organized by The Arab Institute of Business Leaders, the representative body for the Tunisian business world, and have the chance again to share my thoughts with you. I participated in this meeting before in your beautiful touristic city in 2015. I am grateful for your invitation and greet all, with respect.


First of all, I would like to congratulate sincerely President Kais Saied for his success in elections. I wish him all the success in his tenure.


Ladies and Gentleman,


During my trip to this beautiful country in March 2012 as the President of Turkey, I had the honour of addressing your Constituent Assembly. In that speech, I mentioned that Democracy is a process of perfection and I shared my sincere belief that Tunisia was going to achieve true democracy for all.


Today when we look back, we, as friends of Tunisia, are more than proud. Tunisia has achieved democracy by realizing a revolution with minimum societal cost and by maintaining the institutions of the country without creating a chaos. World has watched this process with great admiration and warmly applauds the Tunisian experience.


Tunisia’s success in this democratic experiment is extraordinary and very valuable because what started as Arab Spring turned into an Arab Winter in most of the countries.


Distinguished Guests,


The goal of politics and the responsibility of those who govern is to increase living standards, welfare and happiness of the people.


The first step towards reaching this goal is to ensure the peace and stability, and also to make possible for different opinions and ideologies share the same space peacefully. Tunisia, fortunately, does not have strong ethnic, religious, sectarian, or language differences, and therefore, it is even easier to achieve these goals in Tunisia.


In the last century, we have witnessed the greatest ideological and political battles, and what we have learned from this experience is that: In societies where fundamental rights and freedoms are not guaranteed, peace, development and welfare cannot be reached. Internal conflicts and foreign interventions are inevitable in these circumstances. Recent examples of this basic principle have been the post-Soviet democratic wave in the Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.


Steps taken by Tunisia on the way to democracy and the gains made on the road are praiseworthy. However, as you would appreciate, the establishment of a true democracy cannot happen in a short period of time. For democratic culture to take root, in addition to administrative, legal and structural reforms, a transformation in the minds of people is essential.


In this context, we must be clear about what we understand from democracy. First of all, democracy cannot be reduced to ballot box. “Winner takes all” logic, the idea that whoever wins the election can do what he wants, only harms the democratic development of a country.


Democracies must be pluralistic, not majoritarian. And a democratic government must respect not only the demands and rights of the majority but also of the minority groups and identities. In this regard, a true democracy is a system where fundamental human rights and freedoms are aligned with universal standards, where the principle of the rule of law is held above all, and where different parts of the society are represented and have the opportunity to participate in the governance.


In order to avoid abuse, separation of powers must be secured by proper institutional structure where checks and balances are in order. This is a necessity for preserving democracy from falling under the shadow of strong parties or leaders. Institutionalization and meritocracy are vitally important for a true democracy.


A true democracy must have certain attributes without which it cannot function properly. These are a transparent and accountable administration, a culture of dialogue and conciliation, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, gender equality and equal opportunity for education and jobs.


One might think that all of these values and principals are originated in the West and they are Western values. Nevertheless, coming from a Muslim majority country like Turkey or Tunisia, I will argue that they are essentially our values. Maybe not named exactly with these terms, however all of these principles and values are existed in our tradition.


Distinguished Guests,

One can also argue that non-democratic and even authoritarian regimes can also develop and achieve economic growth. However, whether this kind of development will be sustainable or not is an open question.  Usually the wealth created in this way is not reasonably distributed.


I strongly believe that the strength of a state should not be measured by its hard power. It should be rather measured by its soft power, meaning by its international prestige and the well-being and happiness it provides to its citizens.


We have to keep in mind that the first condition for the positive change and innovation in a society is the establishment of a free environment. Where people have the freedom of enterprise, where people have the opportunity to display their creative capacity, where property rights are guaranteed by law, and where rule of law abides above all, then you have a system to produce good quality economic growth.


Countries without valuable natural resources, gas or oil, can turn their democratic system, the rule of law, and free market economy into fuel for development. We should keep in mind that sustainable economic growth and fair distribution of income are essentials for healthy democracies.


For countries without natural resources, usually domestic savings would not be enough to create necessary capital for rapid development, thus, they must attract foreign investment. And this can only be achieved when judicial independence, the rule of law, stable political atmosphere and an investment friendly environment is available for both locals and foreigners.


A functioning free market economy empowered by structural reforms and rational economic targets make a country both attractive and foreseeable for foreign investors. Sharing the economic programmes with domestic and foreign audiences in a transparent manner leads to long-term investments.


I believe for Tunisia, along with attracting foreign investment, another crucial issue for economic development is to diversify national economy by providing incentives for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and encouraging entrepreneurship. Both in developed and developing countries Small and Medium Sized Enterprises and new entrepreneurs create most of the employment.


Since the employment is the most important issue in Tunisia’s economy, creating more jobs necessitates flexible labour market.


In this context, I believe that Tunisia with its educated young population who is fluent in a European language and with its strategic geographical location can achieve lasting development with democracy and good governance.


I would like to underline the importance of investing in the young people especially providing incentives in entrepreneurship. The most valuable resource that will allow Tunisia to develop is the young educated population. The well trained human source, the geographical vantage point of the country and the level of integration with Europe are definitely the key elements working towards Tunisia’s advancement. Our common experience proves that educated human resource is much more important than natural resources.


The current global problems such as economic and political crises, the armed conflicts, irregular and mass migrations, have unfortunately empowered populist, authoritarian, repressive and xenophobic political currents to take hold. Across the world democratic values are suffering from erosion.


Today, the attack on liberal democratic values and the strengthening of the extremist currents is a trend one can observe all over the world. Yet, we must never forget what the world has gone through in the interwar years and how leaders of the authoritarian populist era pushed their countries to economic, social and political destruction in the World War II and its aftermath.


Political history has shown us that for a country to develop in a lasting manner, citizens must live under peace and welfare, and to achieve this, the country must uphold the rule of law, freedom of thought and expression, good governance and equality of opportunity. The nobal road to happiness passes through building a democracy with high standards.


I have full confidence that the leader of the Arab Spring, Tunisia, as a country will raise its democracy to the highest standards and will be a  source of inspiration for the other countries.

Thank you.

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