Even a person who has no interest in foreign events would understand that recently Kyiv was expecting an important guest from Turkey. Red flags with star and crescent were erected in virtually all Kyiv’s streets. Thus Ukraine greeted President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of Turkey who arrived here last Wednesday. On June 19 the Turkish leader met President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine and made a speech in Verkhovna Rada. During the meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart President Sezer recalled that Turkey is among Ukraine’s four most important trade partners; moreover, his country is the second biggest export market for Ukrainian goods. Last year the commodity turnover rate between the two countries reached a record $1.43 billion. However, Ukraine occupies only the sixteenth place among Ankara’s trade partners. Not the least reason for such an imbalance in the economic cooperation is Turkey’s deeper integration into the European Union (in 1963 Ankara received associate membership in the European Union and in 1996 signed an agreement with Brussels On a Customs Union). Thus it is only natural that the EU states rate first in trade and economic partnership with Turkey.
One of the alternatives for Ukraine is to also come closer to the EU. Turkey’s experience could be most useful in this process: Ankara, which has lived on hope to enter the EU for the last 39 years, knows better than anybody about the nuances of Brussels policy. “Ukraine is interested in closer acquaintance with Turkey’s rich experience in the sphere of European integration. We are convinced that without Ukraine and Turkey, united Europe will not be really united,” Leonid Kuchma stressed. No less useful for Ukraine is Turkey’s support in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration. Ankara has been a NATO member for over fifty years, so Kyiv could use not only its experience in the alliance but also when the time comes its vote for our membership in this organization. “Turkey hopes that Ukraine’s goal, entering NATO, will in time come true,” President Sezer said.
Ahmet Necdet Sezer will be 61 this September. Before being elected president he was chairman of the Constitutional Court. He is popular among ordinary people because of a modesty not found in most presidents: he resigned a mansion in the government district and rides in an ordinary Toyota instead of an armored automobile. He directly managed the case of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Ocalan. Sezer enjoys good physical health, which he tries to maintain by jogging around the presidential palace every morning.