Relations with the Balkan Region

The Balkans is a priority for Turkey not only from the political, economical and geographical perspectives, but also due to its historical, cultural and human ties with the region. The Balkans, being the geographical connection of Turkey with the rest of Europe, bears great importance with the special place it had in the historical process that shaped the Turkish nation and the future potential it carries within the context of regional integration and the EU accession objective which we share with all the countries of the region.

With the disintegration of Yugoslavia, all the balances in the Balkans were altered and the instability that arose from this process reached a level that threatened international peace. In the 1990’s the Balkans had to live through destructive wars and ethnic cleansing, today’s environment of peace and stability could have been attained only after international intervention. Following the declarations of independence by Montenegro in 2006 and by Kosovo in 2008, the borders of the newly independent states in the region have become definite.

High level political dialogue, security for all, utmost economic integration and the preservation of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious social structures in the region constitute four main axes of Turkey’s Balkan policy, which is shaped by the principles of “regional ownership” and “inclusiveness”. Our leading objectives are the acceleration of the existing cooperation through the creation of “areas of joint interest” among the countries of the region and the attainment of an extensive regional integration.

Being itself a Balkan country, Turkey attaches great importance to its bilateral relations with the Balkan countries and maintains good relations with all of them. Our bilateral relations with these countries are based on the principles of respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-intervention into internal affairs and further developed on the basis of our historical ties and the principle of good neighborliness.

The historical ties between the peoples of Turkey and countries of the region have extended until today. There are Turkish minorities and communities as well as kin communities in the Balkan countries on the one hand; whereas there are citizens of Balkan-origin in Turkey on the other. Thus any crisis in the Balkans affects Turkey closely and thus, the preservation of peace and stability in the Balkans bears vital importance for Turkey also in that respect.

Turkey believes that the international presence, especially in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, is important and necessary both for the strengthening of the state structures in these countries and regional stability. Turkey, therefore, contributes to all international presences and initiatives in the region.

Turkey, believes that it is the Balkan countries themselves who can make the essential contribution to their own future and intensively deliberates on the development of authentic cooperation mechanisms in the Balkans.

In that respect, the Southeast European Cooperation Process (SEECP) bears importance as the only homegrown initiative in the region. Turkey is a founding member of the SEECP, which has 12 members now upon the accession of Slovenia. Turkey successfully conducted its term of Chairmanship-in-Office between June 2009 and June 2010.

Regional Cooperation Council (RCC), the operational arm of the SEECP, has the main task of developing regional cooperation in Southeast Europe and promoting the integration of the region to the European and Euro-Atlantic structures. Being among the founding members of the RCC, Turkey contributes substantially to its budget and plays an effective role in the joint regional projects.

The most concrete examples of Turkey’s contribution to good neighborly relations and regional cooperation are the trilateral consultation mechanisms founded upon our initiative between Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Serbia and Turkey-Bosnia and Herzegovina-Croatia. These cooperation mechanisms, which were accepted in short time in the region as outstanding confidence building measures, aim at enhancing peace, stability and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the one hand and transforming the whole Balkans to a more stable place, on the other. Until today, Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia have met six times and Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have met four times within the framework of these trilateral mechanisms. On 24 April 2010, Trilateral Balkan Summit was held in İstanbul with the participation of the Heads of State of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The İstanbul Declaration which was adopted after this Summit, brought together the Presidents of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia for the first time since the war. The Second Meeting of the Trilateral Balkan Summit was held in Karadjordjevo, Serbia on 26 April 2011.

The Third Meeting of the Trilateral Balkan Summit of the Presidents of Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia hosted by HE. Mr. Abdullah Gül, President of the Republic of Turkey was held in Ankara, on May 14-15, 2013.

Apart from President Gül, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, HE. Mr. Nebojsa Radmanovic and the members of the Presidency, HE. Mr. Zeljko Komsic and HE. Mr. Bakir Izetbegovic and President of the Republic of Serbia, HE. Mr. Tomislav Nikolic participated in the Summit, the motto of which was “Building Future Together”.

During the Trilateral Summit, leaders expressed their satisfaction about the trilateral summit process, which was inaugurated in April 2010. Leaders concluded that the trilateral process had already reached more comprehensive and advanced level and it had attained the phase from conflict resolution and bringing sides together to engage in joint projects based on a positive agenda. Leaders also stressed that the summit process strengthens the dialog and coordination among three countries and contributes to the regional stability and cooperation.

At the end of the Summit, the “Ankara Summit Declaration” was adopted. In the declaration; among others,

-The overarching objective of creating a stable, peaceful and prosperous Balkans was underlined,

-The overall progress, particularly in the fields of peaceful co-habitation and integration within the European structures, achieved in the Balkans in the last decade, was noted with satisfaction,

-The commitment to encourage and support each other to integrate with the European Union and to share experience in the accession process was highlighted,

-The significant role of the trilateral consultation process, with a particular emphasis on economic, cultural, educational, scientific, energy, infrastructure, transportation, sports and tourism cooperation as agreed in previous Trilateral Summits, as a functioning institutional framework of regional cooperation, was stressed.

The Ministers of Economy of the three countries signed the “Declaration on Economic and Commercial Cooperation” on the 14th of May 2013 on the margins of the Summit. To this end, Trilateral Trade Committee was established with the aim of improving trilateral economic relations.

Turkey considers the integration of all the countries of the region to the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions necessary and continues to support their efforts in this direction.

Turkey provides support and assistance to the countries of the region also in areas other than political relations. The said assistance is conducted in various areas such as economy, culture, common historical heritage, education, military and security by our relevant public institutions in accordance with the bilateral agreements and in a spirit of solidarity.