H.E. President Gül's Address at the Official Dinner (Turkish-British Tatlıdil Forum)

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Your Royal Highness,

Honourable Co-Chairs,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this distinguished audience, gathered here for the third meeting of Turkish-British Tatlıdil Forum.

Thank you very much for the very warm welcome extended to us.

First of all, I would like to thank Your Royal Highness for hosting tonight’s dinner.

In this room are gathered representatives from the very highest levels of business, academia, media, the arts, and politics. I wish to extend my thanks to the distinguished participants who represent the diversity, richness and depth of Turkish-British relations.

The Forum that brings us together is unique in many respects. It aims to strengthen the strategic partnership between Turkey and the UK by establishing people-to-people contact and social networking.

In other words, it brings together the most crucial elements in any relationship between nations; people and civil society.

To this end, the Forum draws on a large pool of experience and knowledge, but not in the conventional, formal way. This is a gathering of wise men and women in a more flexible and convenient fashion.

We are here for an in-house, frank, and informal exchange of views for a stronger partnership. That is why it is named “tatlı dil”, or, in other words, “good talk.”

This constructive and liberal atmosphere of discussion is the Tatlı Dil Forum’s greatest asset. It promotes better understanding among people, reveals commonalities, and creates alternative avenues of cooperation.

I wish to pay special tribute to the co-chairs of the Forum, my two close friends Jack Straw and Yaşar Yakış, for organizing this event for the third consecutive year.

I am confident that with their able leadership and your continued support it will serve as an engine of ideas for a greater partnership. Please rest assured that you have the full blessing of the Turkish and British governments.

Distinguished Guests,

Following the footprints of history is important to understand the strong nature of relations between Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Long-standing links between the two countries were forged as early as the 16th and 18th centuries, when the two countries dispatched their very first resident ambassadors and intensified efforts to cooperate.

Since then, our histories have been interwoven. We have, no doubt, had a long, concerted history and a strong state tradition.

Yet the remarkable relationship between Turkey and the United Kingdom is not only reflected in its glorious past.

It is also defined by our common commitment as partners in pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity for a better future.

I still have fond memories of Her Majesty the Queen’s historic visit to Turkey in 2008 and I, together with my wife Hayrünnisa, also cherish the good memories of my last visit to the UK in 2011.

At opposite corners of Europe, Turkey and the UK enjoy a tradition of friendship, alliance and trust based on common values and ideals.

It is upon these solid foundations that we established Turkish-British strategic partnership in 2010. It is upon these foundations that bilateral relations flourish.

What we have is not about politics, security and global affairs alone. Today, our two countries are also strong business, industry, and trade partners.

From the Turkish perspective, the relationship with the UK is one of the most important bilateral relationships, because we know that through our close cooperation we can continue to have concrete benefits for a wide range of mutual, international and regional issues. This is a solid, close and frank relationship that continues to yield great benefits for both nations.

Distinguished Guests,

Since it is on the agenda of the Forum, I would like to briefly address the economic dimension.

For many years, Britain has been in the top three trading nations for Turkey, and she remains so today. Last year, 14.3 billion dollars’ worth of goods and services were exchanged. With targets set by Prime Ministers Erdoğan and Cameron, we are committed to exceed 18 billion dollars annually by 2015.

Britain is also a major source of investment in Turkey; indeed, the second largest investor. More than 2,300 British companies operate in Turkey with a net investment value of 6.6 billion dollars. British investors are particularly drawn to the energy, defence, construction, consultancy, real-estate, insurance, health, and tourism sectors.

Turkey is also a key destination for British travellers. In 2012 alone, we hosted 2.5 million British tourists who seemed to enjoy our culture, climate and cuisine. So much and so that 35 thousand British nationals have made Turkey their second home.

In addition, the approximately 400 thousand UK residents of Turkish origin constitute a special human bond and a cultural bridge between the two countries.

It gives us great pleasure that members of the Turkish community make significant contributions to Britain’s multicultural society in almost all walks of life.

I mention these developments in our relationship, but there is still room for progress.

In fact, Turkey is the 6th largest economy in Europe, expected to be the second by 2050. The total amount of foreign direct investment the Turkish economy attracted has exceeded 120 billion dollars in the last ten years. This makes Turkey the 13th most attractive FDI destination in the world.

We expect foreign investments to make up approximately half of the 300 billion dollars that Turkey is planning to invest in more than 150 infrastructure projects over the next decade. Beyond this, sectors such as transportation, communication, financial services, health, defence, aerospace, and energy have huge untapped potential.


I believe British companies will be at the forefront of accessing this potential.

Of course, an attractive investment environment demands stability, rule of law, transparency, and political efficiency. To this end, Turkey has complemented its solid economic performance with rising the standards of democracy. Our track record over the last decade is the backbone of the growing attraction Turkey now enjoys.

Distinguished Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Cooperation between our two countries is not limited to bilateral issues. As strategic partners, Turkey and the United Kingdom share a strong commitment to joint action regarding the challenges of our times. The international environment in which we are in now, is multifacetedly complex and where may challenges such as the civil war in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, terrorism, among others, demand constant closeness of our relationship. We know that our responses to these challenges need to be attuned. Thus, our partnership remains as vital and relevant as ever.

In a few days, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the vicious terror attacks against the British Consulate General and HSBC Bank in İstanbul and honour the memories of the victims.

The commemoration will once again demonstrate the solidarity and resolute stand of both countries facing the common threat of terrorism.

As a rising stakeholder in global affairs, Turkey stands ready to assume its fair share in tackling such threats to our collective security. We wish to share responsibility in global governance, and, together with our partners, help reenergize international efforts to build peace, stability, and security.

Dear Guests,

There is no doubt that the EU accession process has given a strong impetus to Turkey’s rapid transformation over the last decade. Unfortunately, in the last three years, the EU’s transformative power on Turkey has diminished considerably.

One expects clearer vision, imagination, and courage of European leaders.

Despite the recent lack of progress, Turkey continues to be fully committed to its goal of EU membership.

This enduring message should not be lost.

Regardless of the difficulties in the accession process, we are determined to proceed with the reforms we have embarked on to increase the standards of our democracy and hence our people.

On a positive note, after a long delay, a new chapter in accession negotiations will be opened soon. This is a small step in the right direction.

Britain has been one of the most devoted supporters of Turkey’s EU membership. I would like to reiterate our appreciation for the resolute approach of successive British governments.

Turkey and the UK agree that the European Union will remain strong only if it is outward-looking and continues to grow. Other EU leaders must now send a strong message that they feel the same.

This will be a litmus test of the direction in which the EU is headed.

A change of heart in the process will reignite public enthusiasm for the EU both in Turkey and across Europe.


Beyond its own merits, Turkey’s EU accession process has gained additional significance in the wake of historic transformations taking place across the Arab world.

In fact, both the EU and Turkey will have a historic chance to support change for good in their common neighbourhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The current state of Turkish-UK relations promises a bright future at all levels.

The Tatlı Dil Forum is an important civil society platform for sophisticated exchange. It has a substantial role to play in further expanding our cooperation.

We will continue to support and strengthen this Forum in line with our two countries’ common interests.

I extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to all those whose dedication ensures the success of the Forum.

I would now like to propose a toast to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh.

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