Op-Ed on Turkish-Croatian Relations by Turkish Investor Sadettin Saran

Total Croatia News

January 24, 2020 – As Croatia assumes the EU Presidency, an op-ed piece on Turkish-Croatian relations from Sadettin Saran, Chairman of the Board of the Saran Group and the outgoing Chair of the Turkey-Croatia Business Council.

Croatia’s first ever presidency of the Council of the European Union comes at a critical period for the continent. It will be a testing time for Croatia, not least due to the challenges caused by Brexit and the precarious condition of the Western Balkans.
But the six-month chairmanship will also be a crucial opportunity for the EU’s newest member: to boost the continent’s competitiveness through investments and innovations and build a strong Europe in a world full of challenges – challenges that my country, Turkey, is well placed to help Croatia with during its presidency. Only by working together with Turkey – and treating it as a partner, not an adversary – will Europe reap its full potential on the global stage.
With this in mind, Zagreb’s EU Presidency these next six months will be the perfect platform to highlight the strength of the Turkey-Croatia relationship and the value that Turkey adds to the European Union. During my time as Chairman of the Turkey-Croatia Business Council I have developed a deep appreciation of the virtues of the Croatian people and the importance of the historic connection between our two countries, which includes a well-established record of supporting each other on the global stage. Turkey was one of the first countries to recognize Croatia’s independence and was a staunch supporter of the country’s accession to NATO.
Our close ties also spill over to business relations, which have grown in importance in recent years. According to the latest figures, trade volume last year reached almost $600 million, an increase of almost 12% year on year. Turkish investments in Croatia have also gained momentum. There are already 20 Turkish investment firms in Croatia, across tourism, banking, transportation and the energy sector. Turkish construction firms are currently involved in several projects and the fact that some of our largest contractors have taking part in major tenders shows that this investment is growing substantially. The development of Croatia’s first geothermal power plant by a Turkish investor is another case in point.
We are on the right track, but we shouldn’t rest on our laurels as the current level of cooperation does not reflect our true potential. There is much more that we can do together – there is important potential in construction, information and communications technology, renewable energy and agriculture. Increasing the trade volume to $1 billion is now one of our key targets. The tourism sector, which makes up 20% of Croatia’s GDP, holds a lot of promise for both countries. Turkish investors such as myself have extensive expertise in this field and my company Saran Holding, has helped support solid growth in this sector through development projects and the provision of services and commodities. There is also room for improvement when it comes to Croatian investment in Turkey. My country offers a very attractive as well as a safe and stable business environment. The numbers speak for themselves. Turkey recorded one of the most significant improvements in the 2019 Doing Business ranking, while the IMF provided the most positive revision of GDP growth in its forecast for Turkey last year.
When considering Turkey-Croatia relations, we shouldn’t forget the bigger picture. Margaritis Schinas, the Vice President of the European Commission, said last month that he wants Turkey to know that the EU remains a trusted partner, adding that “increased engagement” will help improve relations. I agree. A good starting point would be to address the deficiencies of Turkey’s customs union with Brussels, with an eye on eliminating burdensome structural problems. Croatia, while at the helm of the EU Presidency, would be well-served to make sure that this issue doesn’t fall between the cracks.
In my past life as a professional swimmer, my favourite style was the butterfly stroke, which some consider the most difficult stroke to master. If swum with improper form, the stroke is extremely tiring and inefficiently slow. However, once mastered it is one of the fastest and smoothest strokes. When it comes to business relations, Turkey and Croatia are butterfly stroke champions – years of hard work, determination and forward-thinking has started to pay off for both countries. I strongly believe that this friendship and cooperation will continue to flourish in the future and that the Turkey-Croatia Business Council can play a major part.

// Sadettin Saran is Chairman of the Board of the Saran Group and the outgoing Chair of the Turkey-Croatia Business Council. He is one of the leading Turkish investors in the Croatian tourism sector and a former competitive swimmer, having captained the Turkish National Swimming Team. //


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