|Turkish delight: Golden Horn waterfront in Istanbul, with Galata Tower in the background. — Photo courtesy of Turkish Embassy
On October 29, citizens of Turkey and Turks abroad celebrate the birthday of their Republic with memorial events and festivities. The nation starts the day by paying tribute to the Republic's founder and first President, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Leaders of the country as well as large numbers of people from all walks of life visit his Mausoleum in Ankara to show their everlasting gratitude to him. The morning's solemn ceremonies are followed by parades, receptions and fireworks across the country. It is truly a memorable occasion for all Turks.
Ataturk passed away prematurely at a relatively young age in 1938. But, as he had predicted, the Republic he established proved durable and has continued to prosper to this day. Guided by his motto of "peace at home, peace in the world", the country escaped the devastation of the Second World War, embraced an inclusive model of democratic governance and continued its development on the basis of the principles of secularism, rule of law and private enterprise.
Today, Turkey's progress is still underpinned by a spirit of reform and change. Following the constitutional amendments enacted in 2007, the Turkish people, for the first time this year, elected their President by direct popular vote.
On the other hand, the ongoing economic restructuring process has vastly improved Turkey's ability to cope with the fluctuations in the global economy. Thanks to this resilience, Turkey was able to insulate itself from the worst effects of the world financial crisis and succeeded in maintaining higher-than-average economic growth rates. With its sound industrial base, young population and vibrant private sector, Turkey has become a major economic center of gravity, as attested by its membership and upcoming term presidency of G-20.
Greater prosperity at home has also allowed Turkey to substantially raise its development and humanitarian aid, placing it among the leading donors in the world. Turkey continues to provide a safe haven for 1.8 million refugees who fled from the conflict in neighboring Syria. Furthermore, Turkey will host the first-ever Humanitarian Summit in 2016 in co-operation with the UN.
Turkey's growing international responsibilities naturally translate into a multi-dimensional foreign policy which encompasses diverse regions of the world. Over the recent years, Turkish diplomacy has greatly expanded its global reach, with many new Embassies and Consulates opened in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Southeast Asia, in particular, continues to be a focal point for Turkey's attention, in line with its increasing economic, political and strategic prominence. In the case of Viet Nam, it is our intention to open a Consulate General in HCM City in the near future.
I am very pleased to note that the friendly relations between Turkey and Viet Nam are becoming stronger and more diversified each year. People-to-people contacts are on the rise, while political dialogue is being enhanced through new channels. Viet Nam and Turkey share similar perspectives on many issues facing the global community and enjoy fruitful co-operation on multilateral platforms.
Bilateral economic relations are also booming. Minister of Industry and Trade of Viet Nam Vu Huy Hoang visited Turkey last January to attend the Joint Economic and Trade Committee meeting. As agreed during that visit, our shared goal is to raise the volume of mutual trade flows to US$3 billion by 2016. Turkey is already one of the largest markets for Vietnamese exports in Southwest Asia. Viet Nam also offers many attractive possibilities for Turkish companies. Accordingly, for the first time, we will open a "Turkish Products Exhibition" at the 12th Viet Nam International Trade Fair to be organised from December 3-6 in HCM City. A visit to the Turkish pavilion will be doubly rewarding as guests will also be treated to Turkish cultural shows.
Academic/educational sector is another area with great potential for co-operation. Turkey is now offering a higher number of university scholarships to Vietnamese students with much better conditions than before. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is also pleased to host a young Vietnamese diplomat each year as part of its multinational training programme.
On a personal note, it would be remiss if I did not mention that my spouse has been a proud faculty member of the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam for the past three years.
All these links, personal or institutional, substantial or modest, are laying the building blocks of an even stronger partnership between our two countries. It is therefore my great privilege and pleasure to be serving in Viet Nam at this particular juncture. What we have achieved so far gives me confidence that we can do even better in the future. — VNS