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The Turkish connection

Malta’s business relationship with Turkey is set to grow stronger, Patrick O’Brien says.

Turkey is clearly one of the world’s most dynamic and attractive markets and its EU accession negotiations are leading to significant opportunities for Maltese companies in a broad range of sectors. Admittedly, Turkey’s bid for EU membership has stalled in recent months. It seems that the Turks are not as keen as before. On the other hand, European officials are growing critical of what they see as increasingly authoritarian policies from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But now that Europe has to reach out to its ambivalent partner for cooperation, it may find it has limited leverage. The refugee crisis which is affecting Europe’s financial and social landscape cannot be addressed without the assistance of the Turkish President as many countries are wary of an economic hit, especially if the crisis continues.

Consolidating the EU’s external borders is hardly possible without Turkish help, which is why joint Greek-Turkish patrols in the Mediterranean are under consideration. Rightly or not, the Turkish leader now feels he is negotiating from a position of strength and has made this understood. But Erdogan is also on the campaign trail for the forthcoming November 1 general election, in the hope that his party will achieve the majority it failed to secure earlier this year and that Turkey’s alliances will improve vital economic relations which many countries, including the UK and Malta, have benefited from up to now.

Last month, Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his Turkish counterpart Nihat Zeybekci signed an agreement on the creation of a bilateral commission between the two countries on economy and commerce.

Dr Cardona was attending the official inauguration of an international trade fair in Izmir and stated that the presence of Malta at the event testified to government’s commitment to expand trade and investment opportunities between the two nations.

Commercial relations between Malta and Turkey have expanded in recent years, also considering that strong diplomatic ties between Malta and Turkey date back to 1967. Several Turkish companies are active in a wide range of sectors including financial and marine related fields. According to the Maltese Turkish Business Council, there are currently 379 companies in Malta with Turkish shares. Turkish Airlines has also increased its connection to Malta and now operates 13 direct flights between Istanbul and Malta weekly, opening up business gateways between the two countries

The objective of the bilateral commission between Malta and Turkey is to continue enhancing the possibilities for mutually beneficial trade and investment relations. The commission will assist in promoting information so that more companies can get to know about the capabilities and opportunities available within their respective nations.

Malta Enterprise, which was instrumental to the signing of this agreement as part of its strategy to increase bilateral trade and investment relations with Turkey, has been at the forefront of maintaining business and diplomatic ties even through turbulent times.

Through this agreement, a mechanism has been created under the Ministry of Economy of both countries, where representatives from both the public and private sector of Turkey and Malta meet twice a year to discuss any obstacles which are hampering commercial relations and to propose new initiatives for concrete projects between the two countries.

Malta has also seen a recent influx of Turkish tourists both for leisure and business purposes.

“I have some high-end Turkish clients enquiring about residence permits and IIP citizenships as well as searching for some quality real estate,” Kevin Buttigieg, CEO and managing director of Remax Malta, says. “There are also quite a few Turkish owned hotel chains which are looking to expand and Malta is presently considered to be a hot spot for hotels.”

Turkey’s economic growth rose sharply in the second quarter of this year, highlighting the underlying resilience of a major emerging market pressured by political uncertainty, security threats and global financial turmoil.

Whatever happens with Turkey’s entry into the EU and its upcoming political battles, it’s clear that for Malta, maintaining business and diplomatic relations is a priority.

Maritime affairs

In 2011, Yildirim Holding bought 50 per cent of the container terminal at Malta Freeport for €200m.

It was recently announced that a major Turkish company involved in cruise port operations is to acquire a 31 per cent shareholding in Valletta Cruise Port.

Tourism

In 2013, 9,191 people from Turkey visited Malta and 6,769 people from Malta visited Turkey.

Turkey ranks eighth in the destinations of student arrivals and student weeks with 2,303 students and 17,441 student weeks respectively. This amounts to 3.1 per cent of the total market.

Trade

According to National Statistics Office figures, 2014 imports from Turkey totalled €456,536,873. These included €383m in mineral fuels and oil, €10m in electrical machinery, and €2.9m in clothes and apparel.

Maltese exports to Turkey totalled €24,701,068 in 2014. These included €12.1m in mineral fuels and oils, €3.2m in knitted or crocheted fabrics, and €5.2m in iron and steel.

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