|Exciting times: Izmir Clock Tower, the symbol of Izmir City and arguably its most famous site. — Photo courtesy of Turkish Embassy
Today, Turks at home and around the world are celebrating the 90th anniversary of their Republic with joy and pride. The new state, established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk under difficult circumstances in the aftermath of the Turkish War of Independence, now stands as a stable democracy with a strong and vibrant economy. Over the past nine decades, Turkey has achieved ever higher standards in fields such as education, science, technology and health. Cultural life is thriving with more art exhibitions, films and books produced each year. Last year, the country became the 6th most popular tourism destination in the world. Our young population is one of our greatest assets for sustainable economic growth. Furthermore, Turkey is blessed with many geographical advantages thanks to its location on the cusp of Europe, Asia and Africa. In short, the Turkish people have many reasons to look to the future with confidence.
This year also marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Turkey and Viet Nam. I am very pleased to note that the two countries enjoy excellent relations and their co-operation is flourishing. However, our bilateral ties have yet to be crowned with the highest-level mutual visits. I believe this should be a priority for the period ahead.
This year has been particularly productive in terms of institutional co-operation between the foreign ministries of both countries. The first Consular Consultation meeting in February was followed in April by the second round of Political Consultations in Ankara. At the latter event, an Action Plan for Co-operation in the period 2013-15, as well as an MoU between the respective Diplomacy Academies, was signed. Also in April, the Turkish Foreign Ministry's Centre for Strategic Research and the Institute for Africa and Middle East Studies (IAMES) of the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences jointly organised a seminar in Ha Noi in which bilateral relations were discussed. Prior to that event, IAMES published the first academic book in Viet Nam on Turkey and Vietnamese-Turkish relations. The Turkish Embassy is sponsoring the English-language publication of the book.
Our economic partnership is becoming stronger each year. Bilateral trade volume surpassed $1.3 billion last year and is projected to grow further in the years to come. Viet Nam also offers excellent prospects for Turkish investments, which are currently at a modest level but can be increased through mutual efforts. In the meantime, we are looking forward to the next round of the Turkish-Vietnamese Joint Economic and Trade Committee meetings to be held in Ankara early next year. A number of important agreements including those related to avoidance of double taxation, plus promotion and protection of investments are also expected to be signed during the meeting.
At present, one important task facing us is to enhance human contact between the two countries and increase mutual public awareness of each other's culture. To further stimulate bilateral tourism, Turkey recently introduced an online visa application system for Vietnamese citizens holding OECD or Schengen visas. This eliminates the need for a personal application to Turkish missions and allows the visa to be issued within 24 hours. Likewise, we believe that a mutual visa facilitation agreement would encourage our respective citizens to exchange more visits.
In addition, education is a very promising area for forging closer ties between our two peoples. The Turkish Government is now providing more scholarships to Vietnamese students who wish to pursue a university education in Turkey. These cover many fields, ranging from technical branches to humanities. Detailed information on the scholarships can be obtained by visiting the Embassy's website.
Another effective means of building intercultural bridges is food promotion. As part of our efforts to introduce Turkish culture to Viet Nam and to celebrate 35 years of friendship between the Vietnamese and Turkish peoples, we decided to bring Turkish culinary delights to Ha Noi this year. From October 28 to November 2, the Turkish Embassy is organising a "Turkish Food Week" in partnership with Melia Hanoi Hotel. I hope the residents of Ha Noi will take this opportunity to treat themselves to one of the oldest and best-known cuisines in the world. To those who do so, let me say in advance "afiyet olsun!" (bon appetit). — VNS