The TÜRKONFED delegation, led by Süleyman Sönmez, conducted a series of meetings with official representatives of the Republic of Turkey, high-level officials of the European Commission, and executives from organizations representing the business world, including the European SME Union. The agenda of the TÜRKONFED delegation included the integration process in Turkey-EU relations, updating the Customs Union, energy, trade, EU funds, green and digital transformation, visa issues, and refugee matters.
The Board of Directors of the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), the largest independent business organization in Turkey, voluntarily convened in Brussels. The delegation met with the European Commission, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament, official representatives of the Republic of Turkey, the European SME Union (SMEunited), and UNIZO, the Belgian counterpart of TÜRKONFED. Additionally, the delegation conducted working visits to Belgium’s sustainable economy, information technology, and engineering-focused entrepreneurial ecosystems. Throughout the intensive Brussels meetings of the TÜRKONFED delegation, the integration process in Turkey-EU relations, updating the Customs Union within this framework, energy cooperation, EU funds, green and digital transformation, visa and refugee issues, gender equality priorities, as well as entrepreneurship and SME policies, were discussed in a multifaceted manner.
The delegation, led by TÜRKONFED Chairman Süleyman Sönmez, included Vice Chairpersons Emine Perviz Erdem, Reyhan Aktar, Ali Eroğlu, Board Member Onur Ünlü, TÜRKONFED International President Burak Pehlivan, TÜRKONFED Secretary-General and Board Member Arda Batu, Deputy Secretary-General Betül Çelikkaleli, and EU and SMEunited Representative Zeynep Sanıgök.
The TÜRKONFED delegation met with Ambassador Faruk Kaymakcı, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Turkey to the EU; Ambassador Bekir Uysal, Turkey’s Ambassador to Belgium; and Ambassador Levent Gümrükçü, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Turkey to NATO. They engaged in comprehensive consultations and exchanged ideas regarding Turkey’s bilateral relations, EU integration priorities, NATO, and the evolving security architecture.
Süleyman Sönmez: “Our dream is for Turkey to become a full member of the EU.”
TÜRKONFED Chairman Süleyman Sönmez conveyed the message that TÜRKONFED is ready to be involved in the reconstruction efforts supported by the EU following the earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş. He stated, “As we enter the second century of our country, developing bilateral relations to revive Turkey’s perspective for full EU membership is one of the important focuses of our Manifesto for the Turkey of Our Dreams as TÜRKONFED. In this critical period for all of Europe, the increasing rate of visa rejections for Turkish citizens applying to EU countries is causing concerns, hindering not only bilateral business relations but also academic and civil society interactions. While the necessary preparations for achieving full visa liberalization are ongoing, we call on decision-makers in Turkey and the EU to take joint action in determining a common roadmap that facilitates the transition process.”
“We must take the necessary steps as soon as possible for the modernization of the Customs Union.”
Sönmez, who emphasized that Turkey’s path goes through the EU and the EU’s path also goes through Turkey, stated the following: “Necessary steps should be taken as soon as possible for the modernization of the EU-Turkey Customs Union. The modernization of the Customs Union should be based on the green transformation, which is a necessity of the net-zero era, with a focus on digital transformation, and SMEs should be our priority. Initiating negotiations for the updating of the Customs Union in the future period of EU-Turkey relations will increase the EU’s influence on regional and global developments in the post-war period. Intensifying technical alignment efforts, with a priority on green and digital transformation, and leveraging the advanced integration of the private sector can achieve leverage for economic resilience. We should strengthen EU-Turkey relations in new areas such as climate cooperation and green energy.”
“An EU-Turkey joint SME mechanism can be established”
Sönmez, as a member of the European SME Association (SMEunited), stated that they closely monitor the “Green Deal” and related policies along with all European SMEs and conduct concrete work on common opportunities and challenges. Sönmez stated, “The priorities and challenges of EU SMEs and Turkish SMEs intersect regarding the climate crisis. Issues such as access to green finance, building eco-innovation capacity to support green transformation, supporting SMEs, informing them, and reducing the administrative burden resulting from compliance with new climate-related legislation stand out. An EU-Turkey joint SME mechanism and platforms can be established to support us in solving our problems together. We believe that the green transformation issue of SMEs needs to be addressed holistically. TÜRKONFED and the European SME Association are ready to contribute in this direction,” he said.
Intensive meetings in Brussels
TÜRKONFED delegation, while evaluating the developments in EU-Turkey relations and sharing the views of the Turkish business world regarding initiating concrete steps in key areas of cooperation, met with Angelina Eichhorst, Director for Europe in the European External Action Service, Justyna Petsch, Cabinet Member of the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Zuzana Dorazılova, Cabinet Member of the Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Léon Delvaux, Director at the Directorate-General for Trade of the European Commission (DG TRADE), Henrike Trautmann, Director for the South Neighborhood Region and Turkey at the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR). They also met with representatives from the European business and political world and held discussions for exchanging ideas.
TÜRKONFED, which includes 30 federations and national-international 331 member associations, represents over 60,000 companies through its member base, accounting for 83% of total (excluding energy) foreign trade and approximately 55% of registered employment outside agriculture and the public sector. Istanbul, Western Anatolia, Marmara and Central Anatolia, Thrace, Western Black Sea, Central Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Northern Anatolia, Eastern Black Sea, Inner Anatolia, Southern Aegean, Eastern Marmara, Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean, Southern Marmara, Cukurova, Northern Marmara, Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, Southeast, Zafer, Silk Road, Cappadocia, Mevlana, Eastern, Serhat, Dicle, and Fırat Industrialists and Businessmen Federations, as well as the Sectoral Associations Federation, the Fashion and Ready-Made Clothing Federation, and the Construction Products Manufacturers Federation, are members of TÜRKONFED. TÜRKONFED is a member of SMEunited, the umbrella organization of European SMEs, representing 12 million companies and 55 million employees.