Norway eyes economic cooperation with Turkey in Africa
In an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman, Janis Bjørn Kanavin, the Norwegian ambassador to Turkey, said, “The Turkish side is a lot more willing to take risks in investment than we traditionally are. Thus, if the two countries combine Turkey’s risk-ready engagement with Norwegian capital and technology, it can create beneficial results for Africa.”
Explaining Norway’s long history of development cooperation in Africa, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and devises strategies for cooperation with individual countries, he said Norway has been providing financial aid as a gift, not as loans. “We believe that our cooperation with Africa can achieve better results if there is no obligation for the country to repay the loans,” he noted, stressing a need to combine the political and economic experiences of Turkey and Norway in Africa.
“On the other hand, we also believe that there is a connection between business development, which is beneficial for the local population, and a country’s peace, stability and foreign relations,” the Norwegian ambassador said, adding that Turkey is already aware of that correlation.
In terms of business cooperation and investment, the ambassador noted that Norway is very fortunate to have oil and gas exports, but in order not to inflate the country’s economy with these high incomes, Norway has to invest some of this outside the country.
“Part of that capital is invested in stocks and shares in other countries, including Turkey,” he said, stating that Norway invests in more than 60 companies in Turkey.
Kanavin pointed out that Norway’s largest energy company, Statkraft, holds a $1.2 billion investment in for the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, and he expects that there will be greater cooperation in the future.
Norway is also interested in exporting gas to Europe from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz gas field via Turkey. The pipeline’s route will run nearly 800 kilometers (500 miles) across Turkey, northern Greece and into southern Albania before traveling under the sea to Italy.
The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project is led by Norway, Switzerland and Germany. “The Norwegian firm Statoil holds 25.5 percent in the Shah Deniz project, and I hope Turkey and Norway will be able to establish business ties in this project,” Kanavin said.
The marine sector is another area in which business cooperation can be developed between the countries, according to the ambassador. “More Norwegian companies may be interested in Turkey’s advanced shipbuilding areas, like Yalova and İstanbul,” he noted.
Praising Turkey’s industrial zones and their capacity to attract Norwegian investors, Kanavin stated that there are Norwegian companies whose eyes are on Turkey’s production sector. “Turkey’s production sector, especially the automobile field, is an unexplored investment opportunity for Norway,” he noted.
The Norwegian ambassador also highlighted Turkey’s efforts to increase the education level of its workers to create a more skilled labor force. “I don’t know who works as hard as Turks do. It’s really impressive for people coming from Northern Europe to see the effort put into their work, and at the same time the level of service is high,” he said.
Pointing out that Turkey has also made progress in bringing women into the workforce, Kanavin said the two countries can share experiences on the issue, adding that greater employment of women has doubled Norway’s industrial strength. During a visit from the Norwegian parliamentary speaker in late 2012, the speaker emphasized the importance of improving the position of women in business.
In terms of investment opportunities in Norway, the ambassador said Norway may not be the easiest environment in which to do business, for two main reasons. “We have a large amount of capital inside Norway, and investors may have to face legislative challenges as well,” he said.
According to Kanavin, some investors may feel they can make quicker deals with a greater outcome elsewhere, which would be a slightly shortsighted attitude as Norway has a strong economy.
Relations have become closer in recent years
The Norwegian ambassador said Turkey and Norway have developed close relationships in the last few years after various bilateral visits.
He noted that Norway is preparing for a state visit for the first time ever, adding that relations are closer than they have been at any time in the modern history of Turkish-Norwegian relations. “But if we go thousands of years back, the Vikings came to this part of the world to seek their fortune. So it’s a little bit of a revival,” he said.
“We just had elections in Norway. There was a change of government, so we will see who will be joining his majesty and the queen on their visit to Turkey,” the ambassador explained, adding that such a visit at the state level includes visits at the ministerial level. “We are expecting our ministers for trade and industry, oil and energy, fisheries and also the foreign minister to join the delegation,” he said.
In terms of cultural relations, Kanavin noted that in a recent visit to the Turkish Airlines (THY) representative in Oslo, the company said that this year they are increasing flight traffic by 40 percent from Norway, as they are using three new destinations in the country.
“That’s good news. A lot of it is transit, because Turkish Airlines is very successful at flying to many destinations,” the ambassador said, noting that more than 400,000 passengers flew from Norway to Turkey last year.
He said that this is a very high figure, and Turkey has become a favorite destination for Norwegian holiday makers.
Cultural relations also developed when İstanbul became the main theme of a leading summer festival held in late July and early August in northern Norway.
Olavsfestdagene (St. Olav Festival) is celebrated in the northern Norwegian city of Trondheim and is one of the largest festivals celebrated in the country. The opening ceremony of the festival was held at Nidarosdomen, Norway’s largest cathedral and an important pilgrimage center, on July 28. The festival’s theme this year was İstanbul.
“We think different religions contribute to our society”
Describing the relationship between politics and religion in Norway, the ambassador said the country had a constitution based on Christianity, yet today the relationship is purely formal, which provides more space for non-Christians in the community.
Kanavin said that church and state are mostly separate, but the king is still the formal head of the church. “We think having churches in the community is a benefit to our society, and therefore when we have immigrants coming to Norway with different religions, we think their religion will also be a benefit to our society,” he claimed.
“Since we have a state church, we have to offer the opportunity for other believers to establish their houses of worship with some support from the community,” he noted, adding that the municipality and government offer some support for the establishment of mosques and other places of worship.
The ambassador also said they are sometimes criticized for being over-supportive of religious rights. “But I don’t think what we do is dangerous for our society,” he said, adding there are different religious choices and they exist side by side in Norway.
“We have such religious rules in order to avoid discrimination by providing economic support for those who do not belong to the Christian state church,” he said.
Noting that today the second-largest religion in Norway is Islam and the third is Catholicism, Kanavin said, “I know that 10 years ago there were about 50 different Islamic organizations operating in Norway.”
In addition to the rights Norway provides to non-Christian communities, there are also those given to individuals who do not hold Norwegian citizenship.
The ambassador stated that although there are still ongoing debates on the requirements to stay in Norway, there are some basic rights granted to non-citizens.
“In national elections, you have to be a Norwegian to vote, but in local elections, like those Turkey will have next year, you don’t have to be a Norwegian,” he said, adding that the Norwegian community is mixed, so they have to respect this fact.
“If you have lived in Norway two years, then you have the right to vote in that municipality’s local elections,” the ambassador explained.
He also stressed that there are many Turks who represent their communities, as there are quite a few locally elected representatives with Turkish origins who do not require Norwegian citizenship.
Source: Today’s Zaman
Posted by Administrator on Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 @ 9:12AM