Ankara: Finnish PM Hails Turkey For Initiatives

Reeta Paakkinen

Hurriyet Daily News
Thursday, October 8, 2009

The European Union is likely to welcome Turkey’s normalization talks
with Armenia and its recent democratic initiative, says the Finnish
prime minister, hailing these steps as positive signs. I believe this
will be positively received at the EU, Matti Vanhanen says Finnish
PM hails Turkey for initiatives

Turkey’s democratic initiative and its ongoing normalization talks
with neighboring Armenia are particularly positive signals, Finland’s
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said.

Speaking to Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Tuesday,
Vanhanen said the initiatives were likely to be welcomed by the
European Union. Turkey has three main problems with an international
dimension, Vanhanen said. "One of these is the Kurdish question,
another is the relations with Armenia and the third one, the Cyprus
issue. Out of these three, there has been notable progress in two
within a short period of time.

"I believe this will be positively received at the European
Union. Hopefully the agreement with Armenia will be signed," Vanhanen
told the Daily News in an exclusive interview.

Turkey and Armenia are expected to sign a protocol establishing
diplomatic ties between the two countries this weekend. Vanhanen was
in Turkey on Tuesday on a one-day visit with a delegation of eight
Finnish companies. During the visit, he signed a double taxation
agreement between Finland and Turkey and met with President Abdullah
Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Faster EU talks

Vanhanen said negotiations on Turkey’s membership in the EU could be
faster. "So far, the practice has been to open one negotiation chapter
per EU presidency, but the pace could be speeded up," Vanhanen said,
and reminded that although some parts of the European public and
decision-makers are opposing Turkey’s full membership in the EU, the
union has unilaterally decided to negotiate on a full membership. "
t even some leaders have made pretty skeptical statements about
Turkey’s future in the EU. But it is important to remember that
no official decisions on this have been made. The union has made a
unilateral agreement that Turkey is a candidate for full membership
and not any semi-status. The EU will keep its word," Vanhanen said.

On the other hand, Turkey also needs to keep its promises and
continue with the reform process. The first step Turkey should now
take, said Vanhanen, is to ratify the Ankara Protocol and open its
harbors to Greek Cypriot vessels. So far Turkey has not implemented
the protocol, preferring to see the issue of free movement as a part
of a comprehensive settlement on the divided island.

"Traffic is an important part of the EU entity, there cannot be
an exception in the case of Cyprus. Turkey should ratify the Ankara
Protocol and thus prepare the grounds for a comprehensive settlement on
the island because that needs to be resolved as well," Vanhanen said.

On the question of what Finland, as an EU member state, is doing to end
the political and economic isolation of Turkish Cypriots as promised
by the EU in 2004, Vanhanen, could not give concrete or practical
examples. "Finland is prepared to help [Turkish Cypriots] in the
negotiation process in all ways, and also the Turkish [side] knows
this," Vanhanen said. "When Finland held the EU presidency in 2006,
I worked a lot on this issue and learned how difficult the [Cyprus]
question is. Hopefully the United Nations-sponsored negotiations that
are now going on succeed," Vanhanen said.

Boosting trade relations

One of the purposes of Vanhanen’s one-day visit to Turkey was also to
promote closer trade relations between Finland and Turkey, and sign
a tax treaty between the two countries. Trade volume between Turkey
and Finland currently stands at 1 billion euros. "The tax treaty
now signed prevents [all forms of] double taxation, representing an
important step in bilateral relations. I hope that we will also soon
sign an investme s naturally affecting the investment appetite of
Finnish firms in Turkey," Vanhanen said.

Finnish firms are particularly interested in Turkey, not only because
of the country’s growth potential but also because of its growing role
in the region, Vanhanen said. "Whenever we inquire local businesses
where they would like to have a prime ministerial visit combined
with the presence of a business delegation, Turkey is always on the
top of the list. There is notable interest in Turkey among Finnish
business circles."