Thank you, Mr President, and thank you for that very warm welcome. I can tell from your enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the entrepreneurs that I met outside this incredible building that there is an enormous spirit of enterprise and entrepreneurialism and industry and business and trade here in Turkey, and that is one of the reasons that I want our two countries to build this incredibly strong relationship that I will be speaking about this morning.
I have come to Ankara to establish a new partnership between Britain and Turkey. I think this is a vital strategic relationship for our country. As Prime Minister, I first visited our two largest European Union partners, then Afghanistan, then North America and now, I come to Turkey. People ask me, ‘Why Turkey?’ and, ‘Why so soon?’ Well, I can tell you why: because Turkey is vital for our economy, vital for our security and vital for our politics and our diplomacy.
Let me explain. First, our economy.
Over 400 years ago England’s first official diplomatic representative arrived in Istanbul. William Harborne came bearing gifts from Queen Elizabeth. As a nation, we sought the opportunity for our merchants to trade. More than 400 years on, I follow him to Turkey at least in part for the same reason.
I ask myself this: which European country grew at 11% at the start of this year? Which European country will be the second fastest growing economy in the world by 2017? Which country in Europe has more young people than any of the 27 countries of the European Union? Which country in Europe is our number one manufacturer of televisions and second only to China in the world in construction and in contracting? Tabii ki Türkiye.
Everyone is talking about the BRICs, the fast-growing emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Turkey is Europe’s BRIC, and yet in Britain we export more to Ireland than we export to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Turkey all combined. With no disrespect to our partners and friends in Ireland, we have to change that. That is the first reason I am here today and it is why I have chosen to come to TOBB, right in the heart of the Turkish business community.
The second reason for coming to Turkey is security.
Turkey is a great NATO ally and Turkey shares our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms, whether from al-Qaeda or from the PKK. Yesterday we had yet another reminder of the human price that Turkey pays in facing up to terrorism. As a friend who has also suffered from terrorism, including right here in this country, we stand with you and we will do all we can to help ensure that democracy and the rule of law always win against terror.
You are not just a great ally; the fact is that Turkey’s unique position at the meeting point of East and West gives you an unrivalled influence in helping us to get to grips with some of the greatest threats to our collective security.
I ask myself this: which country, with its commitment to the international effort in Afghanistan, sends a message to the world that this is a fight not against Muslims but against terrorism? Which Muslim majority country has a long established relationship with Israel while at the same time championing the rights of Palestine? Which European country could have the greatest possible chance of persuading Iran to change its course on nuclear policy? Tabii ki Türkiye.
Whether in Afghanistan or in the Middle East, Turkey has a credibility that others in the West just cannot hope to have. So I have come here today to make the case for Turkey to use this credibility, to go further in enhancing our security and working for peace across our world.
The third reason I am here is political.
I am here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the European Union and to fight for it. Do you know who said this? ‘Here is a country which is not European, its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people – admirable people though they are – all point in a different direction. This is a country which cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even what it believes, be a full member.’
Now, that might sound like some Europeans describing Turkey. Actually it was General de Gaulle describing the United Kingdom, my country, before vetoing our accession to the European Union. So we know what it is like to be shut out of the club, but we also know that these things can change.
When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way that it has been. My view is clear: I believe it is just wrong to say that Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit in the tent.
I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. This is something I feel very strongly and very passionately about. Together I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels.
To make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU and to seize the huge advances I believe that we can make in our trade and in our security, there are three groups that we have to take on directly.
First, there are the protectionists. They see the rise of a country like Turkey as an economic threat we must defend against, not as an opportunity to further our prosperity.
Second, there are the polarised. They see the history of the world through the prism of a clash of civilisations. They think that Turkey has to choose between East and West and that choosing both is just not an option.
Third, there is the prejudiced, those who wilfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version peddled by the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself and they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies or cultures.
All these arguments are just plain wrong, and as a new Government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of the international effort to defeat these arguments and I want to take each one in turn.
First, the protectionists.
Every generation has to make the argument for free trade all over again and this generation will be no different. As we build our economic relationship there are some who fear the growth of a country like Turkey, who want to retreat and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. They just don’t get it. They seem to think that trade is a sort of zero-sum game. They talk about it quite literally as if one country’s success is another country’s failure. That if our exports grow, then someone else’s must shrink. That somehow if we import low-cost goods – including from Turkey – that we are failing. As if all the benefits of Turkey’s exports go to Turkey alone when actually we benefit too from choice, from competition, from low prices in our shops. The whole point about trade is that everyone can benefit from it.
So let me tell you what we are going to do to beat the protectionists. We are going to work harder than ever before to break down those barriers to trade that still exist, to cut the global red tape, like by streamlining customs bureaucracy and to work towards completing the trade round that could add $170 billion to the world economy. Prime Minister Erdogan and I were discussing this last night, how we can push forward at the G20 this autumn and we’re going to do everything we can to re-open Britain for business.
Two hundred years on from William Harborne, the first resident Turkish Ambassador arrived in London. One of his team wrote the first Turkish account of life in Britain. He said quite simply, ‘British weather is disagreeable.’ I’m not sure much has changed on that front, and I certainly can’t change the weather, but I can do a lot to change the climate for trade and investment in Britain. That’s why we are cutting corporation tax to 24%, the lowest in the G7. We’re creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20. And we are cutting the time it takes to set up a business.
We are welcoming new business to Britain. And we are delighted that so many Turkish people are visiting, studying, and doing business so successfully in the United Kingdom. And we are encouraging British business to be more ambitious in developing new markets, as Turkish businesses have done. Vodafone, Tesco and HSBC are just three of the big British investments already in Turkey. I want to see many, many more.
Today the value of our trade is over $9 billion a year. I want us to double this over the next five years. We cannot let the protectionists win the argument. The truth is that trade is the biggest wealth creator we have ever known. And when we talk about stimulus it is trade and a trade deal that can give the biggest stimulus to our economies right now.
Second, let me turn to the next group of objectors, the polarised.
They see the history of our world as a clash of civilisations, as a choice between East and West. They just don’t get the fact that Turkey can be a great unifier, because instead of choosing between East and West, Turkey has chosen both. And it’s this opportunity to unite East and West that gives Turkey such an important role with countries in the region in helping us to deliver improved security for all of us.
This matters most of all in Afghanistan. Turkey provides a vital transport hub for equipment heading to Afghanistan for the fight against the Taliban. But it also has a unique influence in promoting the regional, political and economic cooperation that is so crucial to Afghanistan’s stability and security. For international forces to leave we need to know that the Afghans can take control of their own security. That means the development of the Afghan National Security Forces is absolutely vital. And I welcome Turkey’s plans to do even more military and police training.
Just as Turkey is playing a pivotal role in Afghanistan, it can also do so in the Middle East. Turkey’s relationships in the region, both with Israel and the Arab world, are of incalculable value. No other country has the same potential to build understanding between Israel and the Arab world. I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey’s relationship with Israel, but Turkey is a friend of Israel, and I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship.
Let me be clear: the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told Prime Minister Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.
But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it is Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help press the parties to come together and point the way to a just and viable solution.
And, just as we look to Turkey to play this role in the Middle East, so it is Turkey that can help us to stop Iran from getting the bomb. Let us be frank about this: Iran is enriching uranium to 20% with no industrial logic for what they are doing other than producing a bomb. If Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful, why won’t Iran allow the IAEA to inspect? Why does Iran continue to seek to acquire military components? And why does Iran continue to threaten Israel with annihilation?
Even if Iran were to complete the deal proposed in their recent agreement with Turkey and Brazil, it would still retain around 50% of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. So we need Turkey’s help now in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community.
We hope that the meeting held in Istanbul between the Turkish, Brazilian and Iranian Foreign Ministers will see Iran move in the right direction. The new sanctions that the EU announced yesterday are designed to persuade Iran to give the international community confidence that its nuclear programme really is peaceful, as Iran insists.
I also encourage Turkey to maintain its efforts to achieve the ambition of zero problems with all its neighbours, including Iraq. And I welcome the important work that Turkey has done in recent months to improve regional cooperation in the Western Balkans. Again, it is your unique relationships and influence in the region which can play such a vital role in helping to bring about progress and reconciliation.
But all of this – all of this – hinges on people breaking away from the polarised view of a false choice between East and West. With Turkey it is not East or West, it is East and West together. And we very much welcome that combination.
Third, let me turn to the prejudiced – those who don’t differentiate between real Islam and the extremist version.
They don’t understand the values that Islam shares with other religions like Christianity and Judaism that all of these are inherently peaceful religions. Nor do they understand that Turkey is a peaceful country, with a long history of religious tolerance.
I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe, that Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organisation. And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none. Likewise, Turkey is a secular and democratic state. This is all the more reason to make Turkey feel welcome in Europe.
I know Turkey has already made significant reforms in just the last few years. The bans on teaching and broadcasting of Kurdish – scrapped. A new state Kurdish television station – now up and running. The death penalty – scrapped. The penal code – reformed. Democratic institutions – strengthened. These are significant changes. And they should be recognised.
In encouraging you to go further, I’m not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture. We want you to be Turkey – because it is as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens.
But we want you to push forwards aggressively with the EU reforms you’re making. We want you to take the necessary measures to open up the competition chapter as the next step in the accession process. Because just as countries draw great strength from the openness of their societies, so Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy.
And we want you to continue to work towards a solution in Cyprus, despite our disappointment that a huge effort six years ago was unsuccessful. We will work with you in every way we can as you do this. Of course we won’t always agree on everything, but our common objective is to convince the doubters – whether they are the protectionists, the polarised or the prejudiced – that the case for Turkish membership of the European Union is indisputable, just as I already believe it is.
So this is how I see it. The protectionists are wrong. All the countries that increase their trade with Turkey will be winners. The losers will be those that don’t. The polarised are wrong. Turkey doesn’t have to choose between East and West. It’s precisely because you have chosen both that you have such an opportunity to enhance security for us all. The prejudiced are wrong. The problem is not Islam, but the wrong assumptions the prejudiced make about Islam. And a European Union without Turkey is not stronger but weaker, not more secure but less secure, not richer but poorer.
The strategic partnership that I am signing today with Prime Minister Erdogan sets out our ambitions for a modern partnership between Britain and Turkey. Central to this partnership is the conviction that Turkey deserves its place at the top table of European politics, and that is what I will fight for.
To the doubters – I would just ask this: more than any other country, which European country’s growth could drive growth for us all? More than any other, which country’s influence over security in the Middle East could help us to tackle the causes of terrorism and bring greater security for all of us? More than any other, which country’s accession to the EU could make a stronger EU with greater global influence for us all? And the answer I simply give is this: Tabii ki Türkiye. Çok Tesekkür ederim. Thank you very much.
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