TBY talks to Ibrahim Kalýn, Chief Advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, on domestic stability, the new constitution, and Turkey's role in the region.

Domestic stability is a key demand for foreign investors. How do you respond to this sensitivity?

If you look at political stability in Turkey over the past nine years, it has been remarkable—especially given the fact that we had major economic crises in 1999 and 2001. Political stability and strong leadership have supported and strengthened economic development in Turkey. The government has been able to overcome not just the global financial crisis but also the ups and downs of the Turkish economy by taking a number of measures in such areas as investing in research and development, increasing production, securing the banking system, diversifying trade, finding new areas of investment, and attracting FDI.

How significant is the establishment of a new constitution in promoting Turkey's democratic values internationally?

It's one of the most important and ambitious national projects we've had in a long time in Turkey. We have had three constitutions in the Republican period: 1924, 1960, and 1982. The 1982 constitution was written after the military coup of 1980 and no longer caters to the needs of the new Turkey in the 21st century. In addition, that constitution has been amended so many times that it has lost its internal coherence. It is crucial for Turkey's future to write a new, modern, and civilian constitution. It is key for the new Turkey that is emerging with its democratic institutions, economy, new infrastructure, young population, and its new foreign policy. The needs and aspirations of the new Turkey will be reflected in the new constitution and it will boost Turkey's development and remove many of the bureaucratic obstacles that concern business communities and investors. It will expand the areas of freedoms and civil liberties and establish the principles of equality, justice, and constitutional citizenship for all Turkish citizens. This is one area in which other nations, especially in the Arab world, have taken a keen interest. They, too, want to live in a system of democracy, under the rule of law and with transparency, and they look to Turkey as a source of inspiration and as an experience to be shared in terms of how Turkey has overcome years of military tutelage and resolved issues that have been on our agenda for many years: democratization, pluralism, religious minorities, human rights, civil liberties, and economic development. Therefore, our democracy is key to our political stability and economic development.

“It is crucial for Turkey's future to write a new, modern, and civilian constitution."

How do you envision Turkey's role in the transition to democracy for countries involved in the Arab spring?

From the outset, we have supported the people's demand for democracy, rule of law, justice, and transparency in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and in Syria, Yemen, and other places. Leaders should listen to their people's legitimate demands. We believe this is in their national interest as well as in the interest of the region. When Prime Minister Erdoðan visited Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya in September 2011, he was received as embodying these core messages. There is major interest in improving bilateral relations with Turkey. Of course, we already have wide-ranging relations with all the countries in the Arab world. But there is always room for wider and deeper relations in all sectors of life. We will continue to cooperate with these countries and increase our diplomatic, cultural, and economic relations. We know that we cannot live in a stable environment where our neighbors are unstable, weak, or economically lagging behind. A democratic and prosperous Arab world is possible and the Arab people have shown that it is possible through their revolutions.

To what extent have “soft power" measures such as international conferences and student exchange/scholarship programs been successful to promote Turkey?

There is nothing like face-to-face human interaction. The major summits, forums, and conferences held in Turkey in recent years have been hugely successful. By hosting such major meetings as the NATO summit, the World Water Summit, the World Congress of Architects, the UN Somalia meeting, and IMF and World Bank meetings, just to mention a few, and hundreds of cultural and artistic festivals and academic seminars, Turkey has shown its capacity to host international events but also become a center of debate and discussion for global issues. This is not only because we have good venues; it is because Turkey stands at the crossroads of all major global and regional issues.

What is your outlook for Turkey's regional and global position, both economically and diplomatically in the medium term?

If you make a list of 10 major global issues today from energy security to the Middle East peace process, easily six, seven of them will concern the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Africa—at the center of which we are located. We cannot run away from that geography. We are part of it and we try to turn it into a strategic asset. Therefore any positive contribution we make to any small issue from youth entrepreneurship to the Middle East peace process and poverty eradication and education, we believe we are making a contribution to world peace.

© The Business Year - November 2011