Türkiye has grown into a modern state with a strong democracy
The Turkish nation gratefully commemorates Great Leader Atatürk and all those who heroically sacrificed their lives to lay the foundations of modern Türkiye. On that occasion, we published this special edition of InFocus, where we spoke with H.E. Hami Aksoy, Ambassador of Türkiye to Serbia.
Türkiye celebrated its centenary on the 29th of October. What have been the major moments of transformation for the Turkish Republic?
We proudly celebrate the centenary of our Republic. One hundred years ago, our founding leader, Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, proclaimed the Republic of Türkiye on 29th October after a long and devastating War of Independence. The Turkish nation gratefully commemorates Great Leader Atatürk and all those who heroically sacrificed their lives to lay the foundations of modern Türkiye. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who knew very well that the growth and development of a country cannot be limited to reforms in a few areas, has pioneered great steps to be taken to develop our country in every field. Under Atatürk’s leadership, Türkiye successfully implemented political, economic, cultural, and legal reforms to construct a modern and developed country. In this respect, Türkiye became one of Europe’s first countries to ensure women’s civil rights. The education system was modernized. Agricultural and industrial reforms were introduced to ensure economic growth and overcome the destruction caused by the wars and the Great Depression of 1929. After a hundred years, based on this strong foundation laid one hundred years ago despite the difficult conditions of the time, Türkiye has now grown into a modern state with a strong democracy and robust economy harbouring a young dynamic and educated population. Our principled, active, and humanitarian foreign policy has also made us an important actor in our region and the world.
What are your predictions for the future of Türkiye’s legacy and its overall position on the global scene in years to come?
Our deep-rooted history and Atatürk’s legacy oblige us to become a stronger and more prosperous country. Thanks to the rapid progress in every field, Türkiye is attracting more interest than ever. With the inspiration and strength that we take from the giant steps taken during the establishment of our country, we will continue making great efforts for the second century of our Republic. A strong Türkiye with a fully developed infrastructure will have greater influence in its region and beyond. In this respect, we have a Century of Türkiye Project embraced by our people. We have an effort to make Türkiye an even more developed and influential global actor. During the second century of our Republic, despite the challenging global and regional circumstances, we will continue pursuing a principled and determined foreign policy. With the influence of humanitarian policies that shape our foreign policy approach, the Republic of Türkiye will continue to be actively involved in helping the relief efforts during humanitarian crises and resolution of conflicts not only in its vicinity but all around the world. With the breakthroughs made in recent years, Türkiye has become a respected country in its region and beyond. We will continue to stand out as a constructive actor and shape sustainable peace and development conditions in our neighbourhood and beyond.
Türki̇ye became one of Europe’s first countries to ensure women’s civil rights
After the EU, Türkiye is one of Serbia’s main trade partners. How did this beneficial partnership come about?
Our bilateral relations and cooperation with Serbia are at a historical peak. We are especially happy that the centenary of our Republic coincided with the golden age of our relations with Serbia, as defined by President H.E. Aleksandar Vucic. We opened our Consulate General in Novi Pazar in 2021, and our Consular Office in Nis started operating in 2022. We had the honor of working on many high-level visits from Türkiye to Serbia. In bilateral trade, we broke the record of yearly 2,35 million USD in 2022, and we are moving decisively towards the 5-bil- lion-dollar target set by our Presidents. In the past decade, our investments in Serbia increased from 1 million to over 400 million dollars. Türkiye and Serbia both have the political will to strengthen bilateral relations. We truly appreciate the positive approach of our Serbian counterparts in all fields.
How do you see the future of Serbian-Turkish cooperation on the political, economic, and cultural levels?
H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Türkiye, is expected to visit Serbia soon to hold the fourth meeting of the Türkiye-Serbia High-Level Cooperation Council, established in 2017. Our Presidents have meetings and phone calls almost monthly. This strong friendship and the close ties between our peoples contribute to the constant development of political, economic, and cultural relations. Prominent Turkish companies are involved in mega infrastructure and transportation projects that contribute to the development of Serbia. We hope to be part of more such projects with our renowned construction firms. We are glad that more and more Turkish companies in the ICT and renewable energy sectors are showing interest in investing in Serbia every single day. There are more than 20 Turkish factories in vital sectors, and Turkish firms employ around 8.000 people in different regions of Serbia. Our cultural ties are also getting stronger. We frequently interact with people who started learning the Turkish language from our television series. To this day, almost 4.000 Serbian citizens are learning Turkish at the Belgrade Yunus Emre Institute. Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, TİKA, is an important development partner of Serbia with projects in education, health, agriculture, and the public sector. We establish sister-city relations between the cities and municipalities of Türkiye and Serbia to increase cultural interactions and organize joint events in both countries.
Our bilateral relations and cooperation with Serbia are at a historical peak
What would you consider the most important field in which Türkiye and Serbia collaborate?
Apart from economic cooperation, trade, and investments, which are my priorities as Ambassador, especially instructed by President H.E. Erdoğan, we believe that security cooperation and our joint efforts to prevent irregular migration, our fight against terrorism and organized crime constitute some of the most important aspects of our bilateral relations. We appreciate Serbia’s firm stance against the FETÖ terrorist organization by being the only country in the Balkans to eliminate its activities. We have millions of Turkish citizens in Western European countries, and many Turkish families travel to Türkiye through Serbia during summer. In cooperation with the Serbian authorities, Turkish police officers have been assigned to support Turkish citizens at the borders to facilitate their crossing of Serbian borders since 2019. We would like to continue this mutually beneficial cooperation in the following years.
Türkiye has become a respected country in its region and beyond
Türkiye is a popular tourist destination for people from Serbia, but the number of Turkish travellers to Serbia is rising. What are some unique aspects of Serbian culture which pique the interest of Turkish tourists?
Increasing momentum in our relations contributes to the current boost in tourism. We attach importance to developing people-to-people relations between our countries, and tourism is a key area of cooperation. We continue to break records in tourism numbers: In 2022, almost 360.000 Serbians visited Türkiye. This is an all-time high number. And 125.000 Turkish tourists came to Serbia. This represents a 110% increase compared to the Turkish tourist in 2021. In the first eight months of this year, 126.000 Turkish tourists came to Serbia, a 65% yearly increase. Türkiye now ranks first among the countries regarding the number of tourists visiting Serbia. Turkish tourists are attracted to Serbia due to its proximity, visa-free travel regime, historical ties, and cultural similarities. Serbian cuisine is also very much enjoyed by our people as it coincides with the Turkish taste. Moreover, the number of direct flights between our countries is increasing. To Istanbul, we have flights from Belgrade, Kraljevo, and Nis. We now have direct flights to Ankara and İzmir throughout the year and to Antalya, Bodrum, and Alanya during summer. We invite our Serbian friends to visit the historical landmarks in İstanbul and the beautiful coasts of the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas, as well as tourist attractions in Anatolia such as Cappadocia in Nevşehir, Zeugma in Gaziantep, Mount Nemrut in Adıyaman and Göbeklitepe archaeological site in Şanlıurfa, which is discovered to be the oldest religious sanctuary in the world. Our winter tourism spots, Mount Uludağ in Bursa, Mount Erciyes in Kayseri, and Mount Palandöken in Erzurum, can also be visited by Serbian tourists.