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Official Name – Republic of Turkey
Land Area - 779,454 sq km (35% arable, 26% forestry)
Population – 71.9 million (2008 estimate)
Capital City – Ankara
Religion – Islam (but constitutionally a secular republic)
Language - Turkish
Political system – Republican Parliamentary Democracy
National government - Justice and Development Party (AKP)
National legislature - Unicameral Meclis (parliament) of 550 members elected for a five-year term. Only parties getting more than 10% of the national vote are represented in Parliament, though Independent members can be elected directly from constituencies provided they secure more than 10% of the local vote. Remaining seats are allocated in proportion to the share of the vote
Last election – 22 July 2007
Next election due – July 2011
Head of State - President Abdullah Gül, elected for a 7year term, August 2007. The President is elected by the Meclis by a two-thirds majority on the first two ballots or a simple majority on the third ballot
Head of Government - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Key Ministers (from 31 January 2010)
Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of State - Cemil Çiçek, Bülent Arinç, Ali Babacan
Foreign Affairs - Ahmet Davutoglu
Finance Minister - Mehmet Simsek
Minister of Defence - Vecdi Gönül
Labor and Social Security Minister (responsible for NZ-Turkey Joint Economic Consultations) - Ömer Dinçer
GDP – US$696 billion (2010 EIU forecast)
Real GDP growth – 5.0% (2010 EIU forecast)
Exports – US$113 billion (2010 EIU forecast)
Imports – US$157 billion (2010 EIU forecast)
Inflation – 7.7% (2010 EIU forecast)
External debt – US$271 billion (2010 EIU forecast)
NZ Exports – NZ$54.6 million (for the year ended December 2009)
Main Exports – butter; antibiotics; wool; sheepskins
NZ Imports – NZ$109 million (for the year ended December 2009)
Main Imports – fruit and nuts; light trucks; chromium trioxide; whiteware; textiles.
A Turkish café at
The Republic of Turkey is strategically placed between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, and shares borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Turkey is a secular state following the path envisaged by the first President, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Turkey has a large emigrant population overseas, particularly in Europe (Germany and France). Muslims make up 98% of the Turkish population.
New Zealand and Turkey have a warm political relationship, based on the shared history of the Gallipoli campaign. The annual Gallipoli commemorations in Turkey constitute one of the largest annual off-shore gatherings of New Zealanders and Australians and attendance has grown dramatically in recent years. There have been a number of high-level visits to Turkey in recent years.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the Turkish Republic in 1923. Until his death in 1938 he worked on establishing Turkey as a Western-oriented, secular, unified state. These values have remained a core unifying element of the establishment, and are particularly revered by the military, who view their role as protecting the Turkish State from threats to these values. It was on this basis that the military took power from civilian rulers in 1960, 1971 and 1980.
The formation in July 1996 of a coalition Government by the Welfare (Refah) Party led by Prime Minister Erbakan was a watershed in Turkish politics. This was the first time since Turkey’s establishment as a modern secular state in 1923 that a party reputed to have Islamist tendencies held the office of Prime Minister. The government was forced to resign after 11 months due to pressure from the secular military. The secular nature of Turkish politics was reinforced when the Constitutional Court banned the Welfare Party in January 1998 and barred its leaders from politics for five years. A new coalition government of the left and right was formed and ruled until early elections were held in November 2002. A landslide election brought the Justice and Development Party (AKP), formed from the ashes of the Welfare Party, into power in November 2002, following the collapse of Bulent Ecevit’s coalition government.
Politics in Turkey is fluid and the voting system has often resulted in short-lived coalition governments. However, the government formed in 2002, re-elected in 2007, has brought increased political stability to the country, retaining an absolute majority (340 seats out of 550) in parliament.
Despite his victory in 2002, AKP Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not able to assume the Prime Ministership until a constitutional amendment was passed in 2003, due to his conviction for “inciting religious hatred” following remarks made in a speech in 1998. Abdullah Gül, the then deputy leader of the AKP, was elected President in August 2007.top of page
The Kurdish question has preoccupied successive Turkish governments. Turkey’s Kurdish population accounts for about 15% (9 million) of the total population and is distinguished from Turks by culture and language but not by religion. Modern Turkey has pursued polices aimed at suppressing Kurdish cultural and political identity for more than seventy years. Since 1984, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been active in south-eastern Turkey, demanding Kurdish independence or autonomy within Turkey.
A soldier stands on the clifftop at
the end of the Gallipoli Peninsula.
The PKK has been responsible for a number of attacks and the Government has responded with military force and regular incursions into northern Iraq to eliminate PKK base camps. The total estimated number of deaths from the conflict is 40,000.
The AKP government launched the “Kurdish Opening” in 2009, an attempt to address the issue through social and economic progress to end the 25 year conflict. The plan was to include the lifting of bans on Kurdish broadcasting, allowing the use of Kurdish names for towns and citizens, setting up Kurdish language and literature departments in universities, reviewing laws under which young Kurds are gaoled for allegedly supporting the PKK through actions like throwing stones at security officials, and the possible release of some PKK militants. Despite good intentions and some progress, no specifics or timeframes were ever finalised, in part due to public and military pressure. Kurdish expectations, raised high, were dashed and violence has again intensified. top of page
The voting system in Turkey has often resulted in short-lived coalition governments. However, in late 2002 a single party (AKP), for the first time in over a decade, managed to secure an overwhelming majority of the seats in parliament (Meclis), which brought increased political stability. Despite this victory, the AKP’s Chairman, the charismatic and popular former mayor of Istanbul Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was unable to take a seat in the Meclis, and to become Prime Minister, because of a conviction for “inciting religious hatred” through remarks made in a speech in 1998. The conviction resulted in a ban from standing for parliament that was not removed until the Meclis passed a constitutional amendment in March 2003 that cleared the way for him to be elected and thus to take over as prime minister.
In the July 2007 general elections the AKP was again the outright winner and increased its share of the national vote to 46.6%, from 34% and thereby retaining its absolute majority (340 seats out of 550) in parliament. The party’s position relative to the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was further strengthened through the election by the Meclis of Abdullah Gül, the then deputy leader of the AKP, to the presidency in August 2007.
In February 2008 the government introduced a constitutional amendment to remove the ban on the wearing of headscarves by women at state universities. The right of women to wear the headscarf became a symbol of the ongoing divide between secularists and some Muslims in Turkey and was hotly debated. The opposition CHP challenged the move in the Constitutional Court, arguing that the proposed amendments threatened the secular nature of the state. The Court upheld the CHP’s view and the ban on the wearing of headscarves in the public service and universities remains.
A month later the chief prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, filed a lawsuit against the AKP with the Constitutional Court, alleging the party was attempting to subvert the secular state. The lawsuit sought to close down the AKP and ban 71 of its members, including Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gül, from politics. The Court delivered its verdict on 30 July 2008, deciding instead to halve the amount of state funding received by the AKP, and thereby averting the damage which closure would have caused Turkey’s democratic credentials.
In April 2008 parliament finally approved amendments to controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code 2005. This, along with other articles, had been used to prosecute leading intellectuals for their opinions since 2003. Under the new article, insults against the “Turkish Nation” or the “Republic of Turkey” are still criminal offences, although the applicable prison sentence has been reduced and “criticism” is not deemed punishable. In addition, the decision to charge a person under Article 301 now requires the approval of the Minister of Justice.
The AKP retains significant popular support in Turkey, although its support fell to 39% of the nationwide vote in the March 2009 local body elections, overshadowed by the global economic crisis. These elections were followed by a major reshuffle of Cabinet effective from 1 May - the first significant reshuffle since the 2002 elections. More radical than was generally expected, the reshuffle reflected PM Erdogan’s determination to reinvigorate the party in readiness for the general elections, scheduled for July 2011. top of page
The AKP government has pursued an economic policy broadly tailored to maintaining macroeconomic stability (following a financial crisis in 2001/02), enhancing competitiveness and attracting further foreign direct investment. Economic reform in Turkey has been wide-ranging: interest rates have been brought down, government indebtedness has been reduced, the public service has been pruned, and some elements of commercial law have been reformed. The government made efforts to reduce its role in the economy by removing price controls and encouraging competition in economic sectors dominated by state entities.
After the serious economic crisis in 2000/01, Turkey benefited from the abundance of global liquidity, pragmatic economic policies and by having EU and IMF “anchors” (ie reforms associated with the EU accession process, and the IMF agreement in place for the past eight years that required the government to adopt various fiscal measures). In the five years leading up to the global economic crisis, Turkey had one of the fastest growing economies in the OECD.
The global economic crisis hit Turkey hard, but its economy is now rebounding strongly. At 11 percent, Turkey had the second fastest GDP growth rate of any country in the world (after China) in the last quarter of 2009. Its banking sector is strong and it is expecting GDP growth to reach six percent annually by the end of the year.top of page
Situated at the crossroads between East and West, Turkey’s foreign policy is underpinned by an approach of “strategic depth” and “zero problems” with its neighbours, while maintaining traditionally good relations with the West. The underlying trend is one of Turkey gradually moving away from its traditional defensive, insular approach to foreign policy.
Entry into the European Union has been a key objective of successive Turkish governments. EU membership negotiations commenced in October 2005. Turkey’s candidacy is the most complex and politically difficult for the EU of any accession process so far. Germany, Austria and France remain openly opposed to Turkey’s full membership. Turkey’s EU membership aspirations are significantly hindered by lack of progress in resolving the situation in Cyprus, divided following the invasion by Turkey of Northern Cyprus in 1974.
The UN has monitored a de facto ceasefire in Cyprus since August 1974. The EU maintains that Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot vessels and aircraft, unless the latter undertake similar concessions in relation to Northern Cyprus, places it in breach of its agreed obligations regarding the extension of the EU Customs Union to new members. For its part, Turkey is aggrieved that ‘Greek’ Cyprus was allowed to join the EU while Turkey’s accession process remains stalled – especially after the Greek Cypriots rejected a UN-brokered solution to reunite the island. A former New Zealand Minister, Dame Ann Hercus, was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus from 1998 to 1999. Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is the current Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus
Turkey has traditionally regarded itself as a point of stability in an unstable region and has been reluctant to become entangled in Middle Eastern conflicts. Its relations with Syria, Iran and Iraq are viewed by all sides through the lens of history (the Ottoman period) and Turkey’s NATO alignment. For example, Turkey sought a mediating role in the Iran nuclear issue, brokering a fuel swap deal along with Brazil, but which failed to head off a fourth round of UN sanctions in June 2009. Turkey mediated between Syria and Iraq over allegations of Syria backing terrorist attacks in Iraq. Turkey’s previously constructive relationship with Israel has been under strain in the past few years, in part due to Israel’s positions on Gaza and the Palestinian issue. An Israeli commando operation against a “Peace Flotilla” in May 2010 resulted in the deaths of nine Turks. Turkey strongly condemned the Israeli action and immediately recalled its Ambassador to Israel back to Ankara. Turkey said it would sever diplomatic relations if Israel failed either to apologise and pay compensation or to accept an independent international inquiry, and the results of that inquiry. Israel finally supported an inquiry established by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. A former New Zealand Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, was named in early August 2010 to chair the inquiry, which would also include commissioners from both Israel and Turkey.
Turkey’s interests in the Caucasus are also often complex. Turkey has enjoyed strong trade growth in recent years with Russia, now Turkey’s leading trading partner. Turkey’s ties with Georgia have also increased rapidly in recent years. Turkey’s relations with Armenia have long been strained by grievances stemming from the Ottoman Empire’s killing and expulsion of Armenian citizens in 1915 and more recently by Armenia’s occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh – a region of Azerbaijan, a country close to Turkey both ethnically and politically. In October 2009, Turkey and Armenia signed an accord normalising relations, an historic reconciliation. However, by mid-2010 the accord still remained to be ratified by either parliament.
Turkey has taken the lead in forming a Black Sea Economic Cooperation region, which includes, among others, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Greece, Albania, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The grouping’s long term aim is to establish a free trade zone.
Turkey is currently a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It has been actively engaged in Afghanistan, having led the UN-authorised International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), for six months in 2002-3 and again from February to August 2005. It has two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), including in Wardak, the province next to Bamyan, where New Zealand’s PRT is based.
In recent years, Turkey has developed relationships within Africa, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.
New Zealand relations with Turkey have developed steadily over the past few years, with a reaffirmation of bonds stemming from the shared trauma of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915-16. High-level visits in both directions and the establishment of the Joint Economic Commission to promote trade and economic activities have provided further structure to the relationship. The Turkish community in New Zealand numbers about 1,000 - 1,500, most of whom live in Auckland. In January 1992 Turkey opened an Embassy in Wellington, followed by New Zealand opening an Embassy in Ankara in 1993. Turkey-New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship groups are active in both parliaments.
The Helles Memorial,
A memorial to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a divisional commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli who went on to become the founder of modern Turkey, is sited at Tarakina Bay overlooking the entrance to Wellington harbour. A memorial to the New Zealanders who fell at Gallipoli is situated at Chunuk Bair, on the Gelibolu Peninsula in Turkey. A stone from the Chunuk Bair memorial forms the centrepiece of a new memorial, in Wellington’s Anglican Cathedral, to the Anzac troops who fell during the Gallipoli campaign.
Total trade with Turkey has increased significantly since 1990. There has been a shift in our trading profile over the past fifteen years, with the value of Turkish imports to New Zealand overtaking the value of New Zealand exports to Turkey. New Zealand’s exports to Turkey peaked in 1995 with high sales of raw sheep skins and hides. There remains considerable potential to increase the value of New Zealand’s exports to Turkey’s rapidly modernising market.
New Zealand exports to Turkey totalled NZ$54.6 million in the year ended December 2009 (down from NZ$61.7 million in 2008). Main exports were butter, antibiotics, wool and sheepskins. Imports from Turkey totalled NZ$109.4 million during the same period (NZ$118 million in 2008). Main imports were fruit and nuts, light trucks, chromium trioxide, whiteware and textiles. Successful New Zealand businesses in Turkey include Marinescape, runner up for the New Zealand Exporter of the Year in 2008, whose innovative eco-aquarium in a major new shopping mall in Istanbul opened in October 2009.
The New Zealand-Turkey Joint Economic and Trade Commission (JEC) was established in 1991 to address, at Ministerial level, trade access questions and to expand trade interests. The next meeting was scheduled to take place in October 2010.top of page
There have been numerous high level visits between New Zealand and Turkey, largely connected with the Gallipoli commemorations:
April: Prime Minister John Key (Gallipoli and visit to Ankara)
March: Hon Murray McCully (Visit to Ankara and Gallipoli)
February: Hon Wayne Mapp, Minister of Defence (NATO meeting in Istanbul and Gallipoli)
April: Governor-General His Excellency the Hon Sir Anand Satyanand and Lady Satyanand (Gallipoli and State visit to Ankara)
April: Hon Judith Collins, Minister of Veterans’ Affairs (Gallipoli)
April: Rt Hon Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Gallipoli and visit to Ankara)
April & July: AVM Graham Lintott, Chief of Air Force (Gallipoli and Silk Road Conference)
June: Hon Clayton Cosgrove, Minister for Building & Construction (OECD conference)
April: Rt Hon Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Gallipoli and visit to Ankara)
December: Hon Phil Goff, Minister for Trade and Minister of Defence (7th Turkey NZ JEC)
April: Hon Margaret Wilson, Speaker (Gallipoli, and leading an inter-parliamentary group)
April: Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister (Gallipoli and visit to Ankara)
2004: Hon Judith Tizard
2003: Governor General and Hon Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton
2002: Hon Sandra Lee
2001: Hon Phil Goff
2000: Prime Minister Helen Clark with trade delegation,
Hon Jim Sutton with a group of business representatives
May: HE Professor Mehmet Aydin, Minister of State (Alliance of Civilisations Symposium)
November: HE Ihsan Merdanoglu, leader of the Turkey-New Zealand Parliamentary Friendship Group (inter-parliamentary visit with five MPs)
April: HE Hüseyin Çelik, Minister of National Education
March: HE Mehmet Mehdi Eker, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs’
December: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited with a large delegation of Ministers (HE Ali Babacan, HE Besir Atalay, HE Binali Yildirim) Parliamentarians, business-people and officials
September: HE Abdüllatif Sener, Deputy Prime Minister (for JEC)
February: HE Prof Dr Husnu Gokalp, Minister of Agriculturetop of page
The New Zealand Embassy is also accredited to Israel, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory. Turkey is accredited to New Zealand through its Embassy in Wellington. The current Ambassador, Mr Ali Yakital, presented credentials in March 2011.
New Zealand is represented in Turkey through the New Zealand Embassy in Ankara [external link].
Turkey is represented in New Zealand through the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Wellington.
Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers: telephone: +64 4 439 8000; fax: +64 4 439 8532.