A new Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce opened in Cologne on Tuesday: At stake are billions of euros in investments, thousands of jobs, and -- not least -- the alignment of Turkey and the EU.
Some see the new chamber as a step toward Turkey's EU admission.
Further cementing their long-existing trade and immigration relationship, Germany and Turkey have created an officially sanctioned haven for starting and supporting business ventures. For Turkey, Germany is its most important trading partner, while Turkey ranks 18th on Germany's list: a valuable and tightly woven connection for both countries.
Despite the ailing German economy, German exports to Turkey rose by nearly one fifth last year. Germany exported €8.9 billion ($10.6 billion) in goods to Turkey in 2003, while imports amounted to €7.2 billion.
Erdogan and Schröder at the chamber's opening.
Underlining the importance of the opening of the chamber of commerce, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were present in Cologne, along with other German and Turkish business leaders. These include representatives from Daimler Chrysler, the Metro hypermarket chain, and Deutsche Bank.
The Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce, known under its acronym TD-IHK, is supported by the German Retailers' Association and the German Chamber of Commerce (DIHK), as well as the Turkish Chamber of Commerce or TOBB. The new organization has been in operation since late October, but its official opening ceremony is today.
The organization considers itself a place of support for anyone looking to invest in Turkey or Germany, and a provider of business contacts.
The president of the new organization, Kemal Sahin, called the chamber a "milestone in Turkish--German economic relations." For his part, the head of the German Chamber of Commerce, Peter Presber, said the organization's aim should be to "better integrate Turkish companies in Germany's association structure."
Increasing Turkish investments in Germany
The new chamber will help increase investment in Germany, Sahin said. "Turkish businesses have always been a flourishing part of the German economy. By creating this chamber of commerce, this trend will be strengthened," he said.
Those involved also clearly hope that the new chamber will help strengthen Turkey's bid for European Union membership. Though Turkey is an official candidate nation, the EU has not yet given a date for the start of accession negotiations.
Turkey has pushed through major democratic reforms, but the European Parliament stated in a recent report that it is not yet ready for membership, citing the influence of the army in politics, continuing torture practices and the discrimination of religious minorities.
Yet in a state visit to Ankara in February, Schröder indicated he is open to setting a date for talks on concrete criteria. Sahin said he hopes the opening of the chamber will provide the chance to "continue the fruitful dialog " with Schröder."We want Turkey to enter the European Union," Sahin said. Sahin's deputy, Rolf Königs, added: "We belong there."