Speaking at the Turkey – EU High Level Economy Dialogue meeting, TOBB President and EUROCHAMBRES Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated

that strengthening economic relations between Turkey and the EU as well as the increasing economic balances would also strengthen political bonds, “Economic bonds are the best way to overcome political difficulties. That is why we must do our part and be role models for policy-makers.​

Hisarcıklıoğlu requested support from the EU in regards to lifting visas, transportation quotas and the inclusion of Turkey in the TTIP agreement between the USA and the EU.

Turkey - EU High Level Economy Dialogue meeting took place at the İstanbul Hilton with the attendances of Prime Minister Deputy Mehmet Şimşek, Customs and Commerce Minister Bülent Tüfekci, EU Minister Volkan Bozkır and Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş as well as European Commission Members, representatives of the business community and civil society organizations in Turkey and the EU in addition to representatives of international finance organizations.

TOBB President and EUROCHAMBRES Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that the halt to Turkey’s membership process is costly for both sides. Stating that they view the decision to speed up the process positively, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “We want all chapters to be opened for negotiations and completed. We, the business community, are prepared to do our duty in regards to the completion of the various criteria. It is very important for the Turkish economy and business community to be a part of the EU-USA trade block, or the TTIP. EU should support Turkey in this process.”

- Business community wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel

Stating that there are many mechanisms which bring together the business communities of the EU and Turkey, Hisarcıklıoğlu pointed out that there is no platform which brings all elements together in a single place and stressed the fact that TOBB, as the umbrella organization of the Turkish business community supports all efforts in regards to Turkey’s membership in the EU.

Pointing out that they put great importance on improving the investment environment in Turkey as well as increasing dialogue with the EU, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “We are working on many projects with financial support from the EU aiming to increase capacity and develop civil society dialogue. With our network of local chambers, we are running the EU Information Centers Project. This is the European Commission’s most fundamental communications project. Turkey’s membership negotiations have been underway for a decade. We are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The business community wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

- Visas and transportation quotas

Reporting that Turkish transportation companies are encountering problems in regards to transportation quotas in the European Union, Hisarcıklıoğlu stated that both the WTO and the G20 have emphasized problems stemming from over-protective policies. Stating that those who voice these concerns are not likewise concerned with the quotas which Turkish trucks are subject to inside the EU, M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “While there is talk of free flow of goods, the passage of certain individuals doing the transportation is restricted. This is an unfair non-tariff obstruction. The EC underlined the costs of vehicles waiting within the EU. That is why we request your support in regards to the issues of lifting visas and transportation quotas. There should be no fears that lifting visas would bring new problems to the EU from Turkey. Quite the opposite, there will be benefits for both parties. We are aware of the fact that there are conflicting opinions on the matter in the EU. We also take note of the various domestic pressures in some countries. To this end, we posit that the EU-Turkey Agreement is a sign of a closer partnership and a right step on the path to EU membership for Turkey. That is why we must stress the importance of keeping the trust of the Turkish people.”

- Prime Minister Deputy Mehmet Şimşek

Prime Minister Deputy Mehmet Şimşek stated that the EU is a great success and said, “I believe that if Turkey is able to practice the rule of law, improve its standards of democracy and the quality of its institutions, drawing it closer with Europe, there is every sign of increase in investments. Risk ratings for Turkey fall. That is why the EU membership process is the most comprehensive reform program for Turkey. The EU is a great success. That is very important for us. Hopefully Turkey will improve its institutional quality, its stability and the rule of law.”

- Reform emphasis

Speaking on the importance of reforms, Şimşek said, “For the first time, we have a Prime Minister Deputy in charge of reforms. There has been greatly encouraging developments in just the last 3-4 months.

We will bring flexibility to the job market. We’ve already presented various legislative changes to the National Assembly. I believe that the reforms regarding job market flexibility will be enacted once reforms pertaining to the EU visas liberalization process are completed. By catching up to the public administration current deficit last year we achieved an important milestone. We must ensure that this success is permanent via reforms. We are diverting a quarter of tax income to education and a fifth to healthcare. We are enacting reforms in education in regards to quality. We are working for more transparency and combating corruption. The political ethics law will also be reviewed by the National Assembly.”

TÜSİAD Chair Cansen Başaran Symes touched on the importance of Turkey’s EU membership as a goal, stating that this would improve democracy, development and competition.

EUROCHAMBRES Secretary General Arnaldo Abruzzini stated that the Syrian refugees are also taking their hidden talents with them to the countries they are fleeing to, “This crisis could be an opportunity to further develop our relations. We must bring to light the hidden talents of refugees as the business community.”

- Eurasia Tunnel Project tour

Following the meeting, TOBB President and EUROCHAMBRES Vice President M. Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, Prime Minister Deputy in charge of the Economy Mehmet Şimşek and the European Commission members toured the construction site of the Eurasia Tunnel Project.

The delegation inspected the tunnel and took a commemorative photograph with the workers afterwards.

Şimşek, Katainen and Hahn signed the commemorative ledger following which gifts were exchanged, ending the visit.