Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey and Germany in the Balkans: Competing with Each Other?

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Turkey and Germany in the Balkans: Competing with Each Other?

Article excerpt

Introduction

It is claimed in academic circles and in the media that there is a conflict of interest in the Balkans between Turkey and the EU in general, but Germany in particular. (1) Many countries such as Russia, China, India, the EU, and the U.S. vie to expand their economic, cultural, and political influence in the Balkans. Germany has many advantages in this competition as a main trade partner and creditor of the Balkan countries. (2)

The Balkans is an important element in the foreign policy of Turkey, which has deep historical and cultural ties with the region. One of the basic principles of this policy has been designated as maximum economic integration. Western countries, on the other hand, aim to guarantee their energy supply and achieve their strategic goals under the stance of bringing stability to the Balkans. (3)

This paper aims to examine the extent of commercial and financial rivalry between Turkey and Germany in the Balkans. We examine export volumes, exported items, and foreign direct investments (FDIs) of Germany and Turkey to five Balkan countries. These five countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Kosovo, Romania, and Serbia. They constitute approximately 80 percent of the Balkan trade of both countries, and serve as a representative sample for the whole Balkans.

The research question of this study is: 'Do Germany and Turkey compete in the Balkans market, if yes to what extent and in which sectors?' In order to answer this question, export data is collected from Turkish and German official statistical institutes. Turkey and Germany's export flows to and investment activities in five Balkan countries are examined and compared. Top ten goods exported by Turkey and Germany are listed from 2008 till 2017. According to the annual changes in exported product groups, the tendency for competition between Germany and Turkey in export products, if any, is remarked upon. Moreover, local reports, magazines and, newspapers have been scanned and representatives of Turkish governmental institutions, NGOs and private companies have been interviewed. They have been asked about the practices in the field and their observations about the rivalry.

We find that despite regional, historical, and cultural closeness, Turkey has not become the main trade partner of the Balkan countries, yet. However, as the export growth of Turkey in the region continues to increase as it has done in the last two decades, Turkey has the potential to be a serious competitor to Germany in electrical goods and appliances, motor vehicles, parts and components, power generating machinery and vehicles, metal articles, specific and general industrial machines, and plastics. It is also worth mentioning that Germany's export size as of 2017 is 9.2 times bigger than that of Turkey's. Therefore, when analyzing Turkey and Germany's exports to the Balkans, the commercial supremacy of Germany should always be kept in mind.

Increasing Presence of Turkey in the Balkans

As a result of changes in regional and global conditions, and the increased self-confidence of Turkey in the last decades, Ankara started pursuing a soft power policy in the Balkans. (4) The development of a 'Balkan Vision for the Future,' which was introduced by Ahmet Davutoglu, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is an important step. Balkan countries as transition economies need lots of investment, a need which was also realized by Turkish authorities who want to integrate more with the economies in the region around Turkey. The multi-dimensional foreign policy followed by the ruling AK Party government after 2002 shows itself as increased economic and commercial relations with neighboring countries. Although Turkey's interest and activism in the Balkans is not new and cannot solely be attributed to the AK Party government, the inclusion of an economic aspect in Turkish foreign policy is something new. As a result of Turkey's economic achievement after 2002, it has started to prioritize the role of enhanced economic relations and interdependence with all neighbors including the Balkans. …

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