By HUSNIYE GUNGOR
The “hugely important” link between European Union member states and Turkey is about more than trade, said Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Head of the European Union Delegation to Turkey. To him, this cooperation needs to be expanded and intensified. “I am trying to bring it to life,” he said.
Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Turkey said that he is trying to better and strengthen Turkey-EU relationships. He thinks that a lot has been done since the European Council decided on stronger re-engagement under what is described as the “positive agenda” last year in its March and June meetings. “Turkey has signed its participation to the Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ programs and will sign on to other programs. We have had high-level dialogues on very major issues like climate change, health, agriculture, and, more recently, research,” he said. To him, this cooperation needs to be expanded based on the intensification of cooperation, which was the framework that the European Council established last year. “I will try to bring this to life,” he added.
The hugely important link between the European Union member states and Turkey is about more than trade and includes direct investment, integration and value changes, and common challenges faced in digital transformation and green transformation, according to Meyer-Landrut. “Many businesses have one foot in a European country and one foot in Turkey. So, cooperation between businesses is a very important natural bridge between us. And, indeed, everything we can do to strengthen this bridge is welcomed,” he said in an exclusive interview with daily EKONOMI following visits by the ambassadors from EU member states to the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD) forum on Digital Transformation.
The business organizations Ambassador Meyer-Landrut has been working with over the last few years are very interested in strengthening this cooperation, in particular by having their own contacts with European business associations, he added. He thinks that these links between civil society, the private sector, and a range of different actors at different levels are a very important network of cooperation, which also helps to increase mutual understanding.
A COMMON CHALLENGE: DIGITALIZATION
Touching on his visit to TUSIAD, Meyer-Landrut said that Turkey, as part of the EU-Turkey Customs Union, and the European Union face the same obstacles to green and digital transformation. “In the past, we have spent quite some time discussing the requirements for and the message about green transformation. So, I decided it was important to also create a special moment to talk about the challenges and opportunities and ways forward in terms of cooperation between EU and Turkey on digital transformation,” he said, adding that many companies face the same challenges.
The delegation of ambassadors paid a visit to an Arcelik factory in Tuzla the same day to see how digitalization affects every dimension of a company today and how the digitalization of the production process, what we call industry 4.0, works. “Digitalization today is part of the entire business cycle. It was very interesting to see this in the context of one very specific and very high-performing Turkish company,” Meyer-Landrut said. In the afternoon, TUSIAD members, including chairs from different working groups as well as individual companies, shared their challenges and opportunities in digital transformation with the EU member state ambassadors. “We tried to identify where there is space for more cooperation,” he noted.
SINGLE MARKET PROGRAM TO SUPPORT SMEs
There’s a lot of ongoing EU legislation that requires alignment with Turkey, said Meyer-Landrut. “There are also support programs, in which Turkey either is a part or will become a partner soon. So, they are also opportunities for Turkish companies, in cooperation with their European partners, to profit from the programs we are putting in place,”he said.
Concerning TUSIAD’s leadership in digital transformation, he said, “Every company has suppliers, as it depends on a wider ecosystem of often small- and medium-sized enterprises. Though I think the bigger enterprises do need to carry this through with their partners throughout their value chains. Turkey also wants to be part of the Single Market Program, which is in the final negotiations. They are interested in particular in SME cooperation,” he said, adding that they are aware of the need to work with SMEs not only in Turkey but also in Europe because these companies are part of the ecosystem. “However,” he said, “Business associations like TUSIAD also have a responsibility to do this.”
HUGE POTENTIAL AHEAD
Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Turkey, who assumed office on April 8, 2020, did not comment on how long he would remain in his post. However, he did say this about his expectations for the near future in Turkey, mostly regarding the coming elections: “The relationship and also the economic relationship between Europe and Turkey have huge potential. I hope that the environment will develop in such a way that we can make the best use of this potential.”
Preparations for a new loan package
Some highlights from the speech Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut made about Digital Transformation at the TUSIAD headquarters:
>> Turkey has already participated in many EU programs, such as Horizon Europe and Erasmus+. These programs have many components that call for digitalization and digital skills.
>> New EU programs such as the Digital Europe Program and the Single Market Program…include aspects regarding the digitalization of SMEs. Turkey’s partnership with these two programs continues and it is expected that signatures will be inked soon. As of now, Turkish applicants can apply to open calls already made under these programs. Decisions will be made after Turkey is accepted into the programs.
>> We also have digital transformation projects within the scope of the Pre-Accession Assistance Program (IPA) Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. In this context, digital transformation centers in Ankara and Istanbul are supported by five EU-financed projects with a total value of EUR 37m.
>> One of these projects in the appliances sector, Arcelik’s sector, is a project valued at EUR 9.9m, carried out with the White Goods Industrialists’ Association (BEYSAD). There are also projects for the digital transformation of the aluminum and textile industries.
>> We will continue to support this key sector with IPA III funds and there are projects currently in preparation.
>> As you have seen in the media, a new loan package is currently being prepared by the Turkey Investment Platform of the European Fund for Sustainable Development. Among the priorities of this program are digitalization and green transformation, which both fall under the pillar of connectivity. An open call was made to international financial institutions and our colleagues are currently working on the proposed sub-programs.