Ukraine and Turkey have a long history of cooperation and started intense bilateral contacts in all spheres immediately after Ukraine gained its independence in 1991. This bilateral cooperation developed quickly, and was eventually crowned by the proclamation of a strategic partnership and the creation of a High-Level Strategic Council in 2011.
Friendly political ties pave way for closer cooperation
As of 2015, Ukrainian-Turkish bilateral relations rest upon solid foundations including a number of specific pillars. Firstly, for more than 20 years, ties between the two states have developed against the backdrop of a positive political background. With no major political problems or obstacles to upset ties, the key characteristics underpinning Ukraine-Turkey relations throughout the past two-and-a-half decades have been friendliness, mutual understanding and respect.
Secondly, there is a diverse network of intergovernmental and sectoral interaction between Turkey and Ukraine, including commissions, working groups, and a range of bilateral councils. Taken together, this diverse range of official bodies covers nearly all areas of bilateral cooperation, from trade, transportation and energy, to issues related to humanitarian and cultural spheres. This allows for a continuous dialogue on the pressing issues shaping the bilateral agenda.
Black Sea nations with much in common
Thirdly, the geographical proximity of the Ukrainian and Turkish markets, coupled with their mutual attractiveness and the prevailing favorable political conditions between the two countries, have led to considerable volumes of bilateral trade and investment.
Trade and investment are among the main strategic links between the two countries. Turkey currently ranks second among the destinations for Ukrainian exports. Meanwhile, the Turkish business community significantly contributes to the Ukrainian economy in a range of sectors such as construction, telecommunications and finance.
Presidents agree on PPP initiative
Nevertheless, bilateral relations could still be further strengthened by large-scale projects, in order for Ukraine and Turkey to be considered truly strategic partners. Shrinking bilateral trade and investments volumes over the last year, due to circumstances beyond the control of Ukraine and Turkey, pose a challenge for both governments and businesses, forcing them to find new ways to develop cooperation and to search for mutually beneficial projects.
For this purpose, the Ukrainian-Turkish Working Group on Public-Private Partnership was created as an outcome of the Strategic Council meeting chaired by the Presidents of the two countries in March 2015. This decision aims to stir bilateral cooperation and create favorable conditions for further investments.
Ukraine can benefit from Turkish experience
The mechanism of the PPP Working Group, while allowing the Ukrainian side to benefit from extensive Turkish experience in implementing PPP projects, will also generate additional opportunities for Turkish investors in Ukraine. It should also have an important social dimension when applied in the areas where it is most needed - for instance, in the sphere of healthcare or the renewal of ruined infrastructure in the east of Ukraine. In this regard, intense joint interaction between governments and businesses is of the utmost importance. Ukraine-Turkey PPP cooperation creates grounds for exactly the kind of new ideas which are now needed. Therefore, there is reason to be confident that this initiative could become another success story in the narrative of Ukraine-Turkey relations.
About the author: Olga Chubrykova is Deputy Director General for Europe 2 in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. She has served twice in the Embassy of Ukraine in Ankara. Chubrykova holds a PhD in oriental studies. She has published a number of articles on modern Turkish foreign policy and authored the book ‘The Turkey That We Don’t Know’.