Leigh Miller for GlobalAtlanta
Despite its ongoing dispute over Cyprus, Turkey is becoming an attractive market for Atlanta companies as it implements reforms required for its accession to the European Union, said the country’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Murat Sungar.
Mr. Sungar, who is currently first deputy secretary general of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, was in Atlanta Nov. 7-9 to meet with the Turkish community here and to give a lecture on Turkey-U.S. relations as part of the Turkish Lecture Series at Emory University.
“The E.U. process is helping all companies because regulations are becoming easier, and macroeconomic development is impressive,” he told GlobalAtlanta in an interview Nov. 7, noting that inflation is down from 30 percent to 18 percent since Turkey began its reform process last year.
“We are moving in the right direction. It is an attractive market for Atlanta companies,” said Mr. Sungar, who was until November 2005 Turkey’s secretary general of E.U. affairs who was negotiating the country’s reform and accession process.
Mr. Sungar’s visit to Atlanta occurred simultaneously with the release of a European Commission report Nov. 8 on Turkey’s progress toward completing reforms required for accession to the organization.
The report highlights Turkey’s need to do more to protect human rights and to implement a customs agreement with Cyprus by mid-December. It also criticizes Turkey for its refusal to permit cargo ships from Cyprus into its harbors until the E.U. ends an embargo against the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. Turkey is the only country in the world that recognizes the northern third of Cyprus as an independent state.
If Turkey does not make concessions in the dispute, Cyprus, which joined the E.U. in 2004, is likely to use its veto to block Turkey’s membership.
The report made no recommendations except to have the European Council summit Dec. 14-15 decide what steps to take to resolve the impasse.
Mr. Sungar said that despite the ongoing debate over Cyprus, Turkey is moving forward with economic and political reforms that make it more attractive to foreign investors.
The country is becoming an energy hub for central Europe with a new 1,000-mile oil pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea coast, through the Republic of Georgia, to a Turkish port on the Mediterranean Sea, he said.
Turkey has strong commercial relationships with Iran, Iraq and Russia, thus it can serve as a bridge for U.S. companies to those countries, Mr. Sungar added. Turkey has ties with its Arab neighbors and was also the first Muslim country to recognize Israel. Its location and culture makes Turkey both European and Asian, he said.
The Black Sea region generally is important as an energy corridor, Mr. Sungar said. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation, which he heads, is an economic development organization comprised of 12 countries, including Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey and Ukraine.
Mr. Sungar is organizing a meeting of the 12 members’ heads of state in Istanbul, Turkey, next year to discuss projects such as the construction of a road around the Black Sea that would facilitate trade and tourism.
The Black Sea region has extensive reserves of oil, natural gas, minerals and metals.
Turkey’s resources and strategic location make it an important ally of the United States, but the countries have disagreed on U.S. policy in Iraq, Mr. Sungar said. Following the Nov. 7 midterm elections in the U.S., Turkish-U.S. relations on this issue are sure to be smoother because the U.S. will be more likely to plan an exit strategy for the war in Iraq, he said.
Mr. Sungar was hosted here by Mona Diamond, honorary consul general of Turkey in Atlanta. Ms. Diamond told GlobalAtlanta that there are some 5,000 Turkish people in the city, most of whom are professionals.
The honorary consulate’s main goal is to promote Turkey to Americans, she said, noting that the Turkish Lecture series is part of that effort.
The consulate is also helping to bring the curator of the Turkey-based Guaranti Bank’s art museum to the High Museum of Art for a lecture on Friday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Ms. Diamond is chair of the American Turkish Friendship Council, which is organizing a gala in February.
Contact Ms. Diamond for more information at (404) 848-9600 or visit www.honturkishconsulga.org.