On the 29th of August, Turkey had a new government since the former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is now elected President, he is the first President chosen by popular vote in the history of the Turkish Republic (For further reading check out “The Next Sultan").
As expected Ahmet Davutoğlu, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, is now the Prime Minister of Turkey and the Leader of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Some ministers stayed with the same position, though the strategic target of the new Turkish government seems to have returned with more strength to the accession to the European Union.
In the first speech of the Turkish President, Erdoğan said "Our march toward the EU will continue in a more determined way. Our democratic reforms won't lose speed." The new Prime-minister Davutoğlu also spoke out saying that before 2023 when the Turkish Republic will celebrate its 100th anniversary, his government will build a “new Turkey ” and expect it to be a member of the European Union.
The former Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is now the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the new Minister for his former position is Volkan Bozkır, a Turkish ambassador well know in Brussels. Turkey started the process to be an EU Member before 1959, this process is taking too long and some people are afraid that Turkey can loose its interest in the European Union, but with the appointment of these ministers the new Turkish government is committed to become an EU Member as soon as possible.
The first official visit abroad of the new Minister for European Union Affairs was to Lisbon, on the 11th of September. In an interview held by two Portuguese journalists in a famous Portuguese news channel Sic Notícias, Volkan Bozkır said he had really good friends in Lisbon and always felt the support from Portugal to the Turkish-EU accession process, he said “I should first come here and then go to Strasbourg and Brussels, with the energy and wind that I will obtain from here”.
This show how the relations between the two countries are very good, in this interview Bozkır also said that he had meetings with the Prime-minister Pedro Passos Coelho, the Vice Prime-minister Paulo Portas and with the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Rui Machete, and all of them showed their support to the Turkish accession to the EU. He also said that Turkey will need more of this support in the next months in the way to accelerate the accession process of Turkey.
If we think of Turkey and Portugal, we think that these two countries have nothing in common, but in fact they share some important aspects, the most evident would be their location as both are on the North side of the Mediterranean Sea, both are Southern European Countries and both are in the European extremities. Even between the cities we can find similarities, while visiting Lisbon in May of 2013, the former Turkish President Abdullah Gül said that “Lisbon and Istanbul are both princesses and twin sisters”.
Portugal have some Turkish cultural associations and a few restaurants that help to spread the Turkish culture, language and cuisine around Portuguese people, the same can not be said about Portugal in Turkey, it is almost impossible to find something Portuguese there, one of the exceptions are related to the Portuguese language courses held by Instituto Camões in Ankara.
The two Republics born in the 20th century, just with 13 years of difference (Portugal in 1910; Turkey in 1923). The “Estado Novo” dictatorship ended in 1975 only one year after the Turkish one-party system collapsed.
The relationship between the two countries started in 1843 but only in 1957 they agreed to have permanent diplomat delegations in their capitals. Not even the terrorist attack on the Turkish Embassy in Lisbon in 1983 prevented the good relations both countries have nowadays.
Since 2009 when the President of the Portuguese Republic Cavaco Silva went to Turkey, the State visits between the two countries increased. In 2013 summits started which would be held during the coming years in order to strengthen economic relations between the two countries. These summits were agreed in Ankara in late 2012 by the Prime Ministers of both countries, in order to improve the poor economic relations between them.
Portugal and Turkey think that it is possible to increase their commercial trade which is still too low for the potential of these economies. The summits will also help Turkish companies in their economical expansion to Africa which in the same time profits the Portuguese entrepreneurs to expand their trade to the central Asian countries.
Turkey wants to the help of Portugal to increase their influence in African countries, which recently has led to the acceptance as an associate observer in the Community of Portuguese Language Countries “CPLP”. This will also help the Portuguese Language to be taught in more universities in Turkey.
Portugal and Turkey have mutually supported each other in some International Organizations, Portugal had the Turkish support to the seat as Non-permanent Member of the Security Council of the United Nations in 2011-2012, Portugal now supports Turkey for a seat in the next biennium 2015-2016, which has led to a Turkish support for the Portuguese candidacy for a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Portugal is supporting Turkey as a member of the EU because Portugal considers Turkey as an asset to the EU and also expects a change in the balance of powers in the European Parliament, which can be more favorable to Portugal since the number of Turkish MEPs will exceed the German MEPs, this alteration will bring more visibility to the countries of South Europe, which can be very beneficial to Portugal.
The political relations between the two countries can not be better, but the economic ones can easily be improved, as of the cultural relations which both governments are working on to strengthen. Portugal and Turkey are not geographically close neighbors but in a globalized world as the current we all live in, Portugal and Turkey have learned to take advantage. They have learned how to work together and are showing the World that is possible to have good cooperation between distant countries.
The Mediterranean Sea which features both countries is more than a cultural link. It is the proof that Portugal and Turkey have more in common than what we think they have. Turkish and Portuguese people have a great history already passed, but they can together build a new one for the future.
Edited by: Lisa Enocsson