Turkish donations to Serbia improve bilateral relations

05/12/2013

Cultural development and security grow when regional countries assist one another, experts said.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 05/12/13

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The Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency helped reconstruct the Dragisa Misovic medical centre in Belgrade. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]

Turkish organisations that are donating funds and materials to institutions in Serbia are supporting social and cultural development, overcoming economic issues and improving relations between the two countries.

The Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency is one of the largest Turkish donors to Serbia, assisting with education, medical and cultural growth.

The agency spent 6 million euros (16.7 million TL) in Serbia in 2012, while 10 million euros (27.9 million TL) are earmarked for the Balkan country in 2014 to help cultural institutions, schools, hospitals and agriculture. The agency operates in almost 100 countries around the world, and has offices in about 30.

The Ćamil Sijarić primary school in Novi Pazar was built and equipped by the agency. It is one of several dozen educational and cultural institutions that have received equipment, reconstruction funding and education materials from the agency.

The agency donated seven ambulances to six municipalities in Sandzak, medical equipment to the hospital in Subotica, and helped reconstruct the Dragisa Misovic medical centre in Belgrade. In order to boost agriculture, it has donated hothouses and combines to several cities in south, central and west Serbia.

"All of us will benefit from it because it increases security and safety on a general level, which improves the climate for investors. Furthermore, co-operation like this improves the relations of governments and the friendship of countries," Emrah Ustaomer, co-ordinator of the Turkish Co-operation and Co-ordination Agency office in Belgrade, told SETimes.

Ustaomer said when the organisation is deciding on what projects to undertake in Serbia, it considers officials' recommendations.

"They emphasise needs and ask for help in the education and health sectors, and in the qualification of some professions," he said.

He said the aim of the agency's projects is to unify ethnic groups in the areas where it operates.

"Through projects that support culture, we gather various nationalities to follow the same cultural programmes as well. By donating equipment for agriculture, our idea is to give hope to the people with a chance to produce something and ensure an income," Ustaomer told SETimes.

Another organisation that is financially active in Serbia is the Friends of Sandzak. The informal group is comprised of businessmen and politicians who originate from Sandzak, a majority Muslim region in Serbia.

Recently the group donated 80,000 euros (223,000 TL) to boys in Sandzak so they can participate in Sunet, the mass circumcision ritual of young boys.

Muslim boys have to pass through circumcision when they are younger than 12, ideally between 2 and 6 years, according to their religion. But many cannot afford the surgery, which costs about 50 euros. Additionally, there are costs for the celebration, clothes and gifts.

"This is really significant for the families as well as for us, as their official representatives," Saedetin Mujezinovic, a Novi Pazar city council member, told SETimes.

Altan, 9, and Samed, 7, were among 180 Muslims who took a part in Sunet in September, in Novi Pazar, the biggest city in Sandzak. The two boys were recipients of the donation from the Friends of Sandzak, since their family could not afford the costs.

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"We saw a call for application on regional television, and decided to try since we accomplished all conditions, including that both of us, my wife and me, are unemployed and without incomes. Without help of the municipality and friends from Turkey, we would not have a chance to do this for our sons and we were worried since it is, already, a bit late for Altan who is 9," Ramiz Bogucanin, the boys' father, told SETimes.

Mujezinovic said the donations by all of the organisations are important.

"This help has special meaning for bilateral relations of Serbia and Turkey, and is a step ahead in government relations, as well. The final result should be Turkish investors coming and new jobs opening," Mujezinovic said.

What other sectors could benefit from regional donations? Tell us your thoughts below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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