Macedonian-Turkish relations are strengthening through new business opportunities, while fostering the development in culture, economy, and tourism in both countries.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 09/10/12
Turkish tea producer Chajkur gains grounds on the Macedonian market. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Turkey aims to invest in sales of its traditional drink and national brand, the Turkish tea, in Macedonia. If the brand succeeds on the Macedonian market, the product should find its way to the markets of the neighbouring countries.
Chajkur, the largest producer of tea in Turkey, launched its national drink in several Macedonian cities. The promotional campaign, Friendly Greeting for Friendly Macedonia, offered sample tasting and production presentations.
Abdulkadri Bayraktar, Turkish consul in Macedonia, told SETimes that this investment will bring other Turkish investors to the country.
There is a tradition in Turkey that when friends come over, they are offered tea, which is a symbol of friendship.
Chajkur, among the five biggest producers of tea in the world, will arrive on the Macedonian market offering its own Turkish-made products, for which they are already seeking partners in Macedonia.
Imdat Sutuoglu, the director of Chajkur, said that Turkish appreciation of Macedonia is expressed through tea.
"For us, tea is important. We always offer our friends tea. Our love towards someone is expressed through it. We are fifth [in the world as a] producer of tea, but also the only country where no chemicals are added to the final product, so the product is organic," Sutuoglu said.
Ismail Safi, president of the Turkish group in the parliamentary assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation, told SETimes said that in visiting Macedonia, the goal is not only to offer tea to their Macedonian friends, but also search out for more investment opportunities.
"The main goal was to present the Turkish tea in Macedonia, because we found out that [the product] is not known here enough, and is hard to find. We want Macedonians to get used to it, discover the advantages of tea, and later make some investments … We hope to increase marketing relations in the future," Safi said.
"Macedonia is one of the most important allies and friends of Turkey," Gilaj Daljan, a Turkish MP, said.
Bayraktar expects Macedonia to become a destination from which Turkey will develop its successful regional markets and wider, in Europe.
"In the last few years, the Turkish economy has rapidly developed. Turkey wants to be present in the Balkans. Macedonia is a good place for Turkey to further the sale of its products … Macedonia should use the power of the Turkish economy," Bayraktar said.
"Turkish businessmen view investing in Macedonia as safe, but think that the actual economic boom of Turkish capital will happen when Macedonia enters NATO," Kujtim Useini, businessman from Macedonia, told SETimes.
"Talking with businessmen and politicians from Turkey, and their deputy prime minister, it is obvious that they want Macedonia in NATO [and] that will ensure higher investment security in our country. They want to invest in all areas, construction of factories, hotels, and cultural and historical sites, which are important for Turkish history and culture," Useini said.
Ilker Mustafa, president of the Macedonian Turkish Friendship Society, told SETimes that their goal is to strengthen relations, form new ones and help to develop culture, economic and tourism ties.
"Macedonia-Turkey relations are improving year after year. We have information that almost in every session of the Turkish parliament, Macedonia is mentioned in the context of culture, economy and investments," Mustafa said.
He said there are a large numbers of Turkish businessmen whose ancestry is from Macedonia, which is why they desire to open businesses there. Most live in Istanbul, Tekirda and Bursa. There is also a large number of ethnic Turks in Macedonia -- 100,000 according to statistics.
For Turkish businessmen in Macedonia, the most interesting investments are in the food, textile and construction industries, with a high potential in tourism.
Macedonia's Economic Chamber said that the Turkish-Macedonian economic co-operation is good, but has room for improvement. At a recent meeting of the two countries' chambers in Skopje, it was said that the two sides will ask for a full trade liberalisation to improve the business climate.
Trade between Macedonia and Turkey in the first six months of this year was in slight decline compared to the same period last year, according to experts, due to the economic crisis. Total trade between the two countries in 2011 reached 322 million euros, a growth of 34.1 percent compared to 2010.
Macedonia exports mainly textiles, marble, ferrosilicon and food products to Turkey, and imports electrical equipment, appliances, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, textiles and shoes.