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Erdogan’s Balkan tour: How economic relations stabilize the politics in the Balkans?

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ZAGREB, CROATIA - SEPTEMBER 08: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY – MANDATORY CREDIT - "TURKISH PRESIDENCY / MURAT CETINMUHURDAR / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meets with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic (R) in Zagreb, Croatia on September 08, 2022. ( TUR Presidency/Murat Cetinmuhurdar - Anadolu Agency )
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Sep 09, 2022 - 11:25 AM

ISTANBUL (AA) – During Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Sarajevo, Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Željko Komšić said that “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the policy of Türkiye are one of the rare things on which all the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina agree. The stabilizing role of Türkiye in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the entire region, should be emphasized.”

These words, as an achievement of Turkish foreign policy in the Balkans that has been going on for more than 20 years, come from a politician of a country where the political structure is divided between three ethnicities.

That’s why, before the mini-Balkan tour, President Erdogan made a statement that “we witness that the balanced and fair attitude of our country is appreciated by all the peoples of this geography. We will maintain this stance in the coming period as well”.

Türkiye maintains a balanced and stable policy in the region. Especially the territory, integrity, and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are of vital importance for peace and stability in the Balkans, according to Turkish foreign policy.

Important visits to the Balkans in a row

In recent years, especially in the post-pandemic period, the economy and politics are intertwined globally. Given that economic power translates into political power, Türkiye can become more involved in regional political issues by increasing its economic and investment capacity throughout the region.

Türkiye organized consecutive visits to the region within a week, that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Belgrade to participate in the Open Balkan Initiative Summit on 2 September 2022. The initiative is mostly described as an “important economic project” and covers Albania, North Macedonia, and Serbia. A few days later, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan set off on a three-day Balkans tour on September 6-8 to try to mediate regional problems and improve economic relations.

It may be observed that economic cooperation was the focus of Erdogan’s visit with the economic delegation of around 200 businessmen given that Turkish companies have increased investment in infrastructure projects throughout the region. Business forums are planned in Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Zagreb, and Erdogan emphasized the aim to improve their economic relations in almost all.

In each country, Türkiye has come a long way in terms of foreign trade volume and investment since the AK Party took power in 2002. As one of the most important investment powers, Türkiye invested 265 million dollars in Bosnia Herzegovina in 2021, and trade volume increased to approximately 600 million dollars in the same year. Bilateral trade volume reached 3 billion dollars between 2017 and 2022.

Analysts say economic relations between Serbia and Türkiye are at the highest level in recent history. Serbian President Vucic describes this period as the golden age that both countries have made great progress. Trade volume reached 1.73 billion dollars in 2021, and imports from Türkiye increased by 43%. There are around 700 Turkish companies, which employ approximately 10,000 people, registered in Serbia.

According to Erdogan’s speech, bilateral trade volume exceeded 760 million dollars in the first eight months of 2022 between Türkiye and Croatia. Türkiye aims to achieve a 2 billion-dollar target.

For years, Türkiye has pursued a successful policy that stepping up economic relations leads to political cooperation and regional stability. Although some of the Balkan countries’ administrations have changed over time, bilateral relations have stayed the same and the need for Türkiye’s economic investments has not decreased.

Türkiye’s mediator status gains respect in the Balkans

In recent years, the international system is constantly producing crises that make it harder for the states to maintain peace and stability. Thus the need for a mediator, or mediators, is growing every day.

Since the Ukraine-Russia war began, Ankara’s vision of keeping lines of diplomacy open with Russia resulted in Türkiye’s hosting the highest-level official meetings between Moscow and Kyiv.

While the world is experiencing a kind of chaos, which causes energy and agricultural supply crises, Türkiye’s recent role in successfully securing the Ukraine grain deal awarded it the title of a potential mediator. In the application of social identity theory, the mediator role has significant importance for Türkiye to reach higher status in the international system of great powers, especially, in times of crisis and hardship. Its status-seeking policies help the country for prestige in mediation where it discovers and performs better than many countries.

While Türkiye pursues a balanced policy among Balkan countries, its mediatory position is clearly respected by the regional leaders. For instance, speaking at a joint press conference in Sarajevo with the representatives of the three-member Presidential Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic appreciated Türkiye’s role in mediation between Russia and Ukraine in solving the grain crisis.

Serbian President Vucic thanked Erdogan for visiting his country and said that “We talked about the situation in Ukraine, we also talked about the non-introduction and in general about sanctions in Russia, we also talked about energy and I asked President Erdogan to help us.”

After meeting with Turkish President Erdogan, President of the Republic of Croatia Zoran Milanović said that “We discussed a number of topics; Bosnia and Herzegovina, the war in Ukraine, the position of Türkiye, which is delicate and unique, its role as a link and mediator, and about the exchange of goods.” Then Milanović offered on taking a step forward in terms of economic relations to make it adequate.

Overall, cooperation with Russia in the economic and security fields ensures that Türkiye eases tensions in the new chaotic world order. In the Balkan region, Türkiye’s relations with the countries are characterized by increasing trade and investment volume, easing the disputes and tensions among them as an attitude in line with Turkish foreign policy vision in recent years.

 

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.

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