Turkey is known officially as the Republic of Turkey and is a trans-continental country that is situated mainly in Anatolia on Western Asia and in Eastern Thrace on South-eastern Europe. Turkey borders eight other countries, Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, Iraq and Syria. It has the mediterranean Sea to its south, the Aegean Sea to its west and to its north is the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara , the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles (which both form the Turkish Straits) that separate the borders between Thrace/Europe and Anatolia/Asia. Turkey’s location as the crossroads to Europe and Asia gives it an important geostrategic significance.
The country's official language is Turkish (a Turkic language) and is the mother tongue spoken by 85% of the population. The ethnic majority group is Turk and comprises of between 70% and 75% of the population. The largest ethnic minority are Kurdish who make up approximately 18% of the population. Other ethnic minorities are estimated to be between 7% and 12% and the majority of the country’s population are Muslim.
Turkey has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era which included various ancient Anatolian civilisations and Thracian inhabitants. After the conquest of Alexander the Great the area became Hellenic which continued under Roman rule and into the transition of the Byzantine Empire. The Seljuk Turks started to migrate here in the 11th century which began the country’s Turkification process and which was vastly accelerated in 1071 after their victory over the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert.
The Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm ruled Anatolia until 1243 when the Mongol invasion broke it up into several small Turkish principalities governed by Beys and known at beyliks. In the late 13th century the Ottoman beylik united with Anatolia and created an empire surrounding most of South-eastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed from its defeat in the First World War, certain areas were occupied by the victorious Allies. A group of young military officers led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk organised a successful resistance to the Allies that went on to establish in 1923 the modern Republic of Turkey and Ataturk became its first president.
Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary, constitutional country with a diverse cultural heritage and has increasingly integrated with Western organisations such as the Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE and the G-20 major economies. In 2005 it initiated full membership negotiations into the European Union having been an associate member of the European Economic Community since 1963 and joined the EU Customs Union in 1995. Turkey has also adopted close cultural, political and economic relations with the Middle East, Caucasus, the Turkic states of Central Asia and the African countries through membership in organisations such as the Turkic Council, Joint Administration of Turkic Arts and Culture, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Economic Cooperation Organisation. Due to the country’s growing economic and diplomatic initiatives this has led to its recognition as a regional power.
Turkey is a trans-continental Eurasian country with the Asian side being 97% of Anatolia and the European side 3% of eastern Thrace or Rumelia in the Balkan Peninsula. Both sides are separated by the Bosphorus , the Sea of Marmara , and the Dardanelles Straits which together form a water link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean .
Turkey’s rectangular land shape is more than 1,600km (1,000 miles) long and 800km (500 miles) wide and sits between latitudes 35°and 43° N and longitudes 25°and 45° E. Including the lakes, the country consists of 783,562 square kilometres (300,948sq.m) of which 755,688 square kilometres (291,773sq.m) are in south-west Asia and 23,764 square kilometres (9,174sq.m) are in Europe; it is the 37th largest country in terms of area. It has three seas encircling it on three sides, the Aegean to the west, the Black to the north and the mediterranean to the south and to its northwest is the Sea of Marmara.
Eastern Thrace on the European side forms the borders of Turkey with Greece and Bulgaria. Anatolia on the Asian side consists of a high central plateau with narrow coastal plains that are between the Köroğlu and Pontic mountain ranges to the north and the Taurus Mountains to the south. The Eastern side of Turkey has a more mountainous terrain and the Euphrates, Tigris and Aras Rivers originate from here. Turkey’s highest point is Mount Ararat (Ağrı Dağı) at 5,137m (16,854ft) and Lake Van is its largest lake. There are 7 census regions in the country; Marmara, Aegean, Black Sea, Central Anatolia, Eastern Anatolia, South-eastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean
The rough north Anatolian terrain extends along the Black Sea and looks like a thin narrow belt. This area includes around 1/6th of Turkey's total land mass and the plateau grows increasingly rocky as you proceed eastward. Turkey's diverse landscapes have been produced from complex earth movements that have formed the country over 1000’s of years and which still happen with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Bosphorus and the Dardanelles were actually formed from fault lines running through Turkey that led to the creation of the Black Sea, and there is a fault line that runs across the north of the country from west to east and was responsible for a major earthquake in 1999.
The Constitution of Turkey, its Politics & Elections
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been elected 3 times; in 2002 he gained 34% of the popular vote, in 2007 with 47% and in 2011 with 49% and the country is a parliamentary representative democracy. Since its foundation as a republic in 1923 it has developed a strong tradition of secularism and its constitution governs the country’s legal framework with the main principles of government establishing Turkey as a unitary centralised state.
The country’s President is the head of state which is mostly a ceremonial role and is elected from direct elections into a term of 5 years. In 2007, Abdullah Gul was elected by a popular parliament round of votes succeeding Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers who make up the government have executive power and legislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the unicameral parliament. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislative powers and the Constitutional Court is charged with ruling on the conformity of laws and decrees with the constitution. The Council of State is the tribunal of last resort for administrative cases and the High Court of Appeals for all others.
The Prime Minister is elected by parliament through a vote of confidence in the government and is usually the head of the party having the most seats in parliament. The current Prime Minister is the former Mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose conservative Justice and Development Party won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2002 general elections which were held in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2001 and gained 34% of the suffrage. In the 2007 general elections the AKP received 46.6% of the votes and held its majority in parliament. Although the ministers do not have to be members of parliament, ministers with parliament membership are common in Turkish politics. A series of events regarding state secularism and the role of the judiciary in the legislature happened in 2007 that included a controversial presidential election of Abdullah Gul who had in the past been involved with Islamist parties; and the government's proposal to remove the head scarf ban in universities which was annulled by the Constitutional Court and led to a penalty and a near ban of the ruling party.
Every Turkish citizen, both men and women, who had reached the age of 18 have had the right to vote since 1933 and as from 2004 there were 50 registered political parties in the country. The Constitutional Court has the power to remove public financing of political parties that it believes is anti-secular or separatist, or ban them altogether.
There are 550 members of parliament who are elected into a four-year term by a party-list proportional representation system from 85 electoral districts which represent the 81 administrative provinces of Turkey. Because of their large populations Istanbul is split into three electoral districts and Ankara and Izmir into two each. To avoid a hung parliament and its excessive political fragmentation, only parties winning at least 10% of the votes cast in a national parliamentary election gain the right to representation in the parliament. In the 2007 election due to this threshold only three parties formally entered into parliament compared with two in 2002.
The Turkish Economy Today & its History
Turkey economic heart is in its largest city of Istanbul that has to its left the tower of Sisli and to its right the Levent business district. The country has the world’s 16th largest GDP-PPP and 17th largest nominal GDP and is part of the founding members of the OECD and the G-20 major economies. During the republic’s first 60 years (1923-1983) it adhered to a quasi-statist approach with strict budget planning and government imposed limitations on the participation of the private sector, foreign trade, flow of foreign currency and foreign direct investment. In 1983 Prime Minister Turgut Ozal changed this by initiating a series of reforms designed to shift the economy from a statist, insulated system to a more private-sector market-based model.
These reforms, combined with unprecedented amounts of foreign loans, spurred rapid economic growth which was interspersed by sharp recessions and financial crises in 1994, 1999 (following a devastating earthquake) and 2001 which resulted in an average of 4% GDP growth per annum between 1981 and 2003. Lack of additional fiscal reforms, combined with large and growing public sector deficits and widespread corruption, resulted in high inflation, a weak banking sector and increased macroeconomic volatility. After the economic crisis of 2001 and reforms initiated by the then Finance Minister Kemal Dervis, inflation fell to a single-digit number, investor confidence and foreign investment soared and unemployment dropped.
Turkey gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment, and the privatisation of publicly owned industries with the liberalisation of many sectors to private and foreign participation have continued amid political debate. The public debt to GDP ratio, while well below its levels during the recession of 2001, reached 46% in 2010. The real GDP growth rate from 2002 to 2007 averaged 6.8% annually, which made Turkey one of the fastest growing economies in the world during that period. However, growth slowed to 1% in 2008, and in 2009 the Turkish economy was affected by the global financial crisis with a recession of 5%. The economy was estimated to have returned to 8% growth in 2010.
In the early part of 2000 the incessant high inflation was brought under control which led to the launch of a new currency the “Turkish new lira” on 1 January 2005 to cement the acquisition of the economic reforms and erase the remnants of an unstable economy. On 1 January 2009 the new Turkish lira was renamed once more as the “Turkish lira” with the introduction of new bank notes and coins. As a result of continuing economic reforms, inflation dropped to 8% in 2005 and the unemployment rate to 10%.
Tourism in Turkey has undergone rapid growth through the last 20 years and constitutes an important part of the economy. 33.3 million foreign visitors came to Turkey in 2011, making it the world's 6th most popular tourist destination and which contributed $23 billion to the country’s revenues. Other key sectors of the Turkish economy are banking, construction, home appliances, electronics, textiles, oil refining, petrochemical products, food, mining, iron and steel, machine industry and automotive.
Turkey has a large automotive industry; in 2012 it produced 1,072,339 motor vehicles giving it a status as the 16th largest producer in the world. The Turkish shipbuilding industry achieved exports worth US$ 1.2 billion in 2011. The country’s major export markets are Malta, Marshall Islands, Panama and United Kingdom. Turkish shipyards have 15 floating docks of various sizes and one dry dock, and Tuzla, Yalova and İzmit have developed into dynamic shipbuilding centres. In 2011 there were 70 active shipyards in Turkey with a further 56 under construction. Turkish shipyards are highly ranked in the production of chemical and oil tankers up to 10,000 dwt and also for producing mega yachts.
Turkey's economy has grown more dependent on industry from its major cities concentrated in the western provinces and less on agriculture, although traditional agriculture is still a major part of the Turkish economy. In 2010 the agricultural sector accounted for 9% of GDP while the industrial sector accounted for 26% and the services sector 65%, however, agriculture still accounted for 24.7% of employment. In 2004 it was estimated that 46% of total disposable income was received by the top 20% of income earners, while the lowest 20% received 6%. According to Eurostat data, Turkish PPS GDP per capita stood at 52% of the EU average in 2011.
Turkey has taken advantage of the European Union and the Turkey Customs Union was signed in 1995 to increase its industrial production destined for exports while at the same time benefiting from EU origin foreign investment into the country. Turkey also has the opportunity of a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) without full membership that allows it to manufacture for tariff free sale throughout the EU market.
By 2009 exports reached $110 billion and in 2010 $117 billion; in 2009 its main export partners were Germany 10%, France 6%, UK 6%, Italy 6%, and Iraq 5%. However, larger imports amounted to $166 billion in 2010 and threatened the balance of trade with main import partners in 2009 were Russia 14%, Germany 10%, China 9%, US 6%, Italy 5%, France 5%.
After years of low levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), in 2007 Turkey attracted $22 billion in FDI and is expected to attract a higher figure in following years. A series of large privatisations, the stability fostered by the start of Turkey's EU accession negotiations, strong and stable growth, and structural changes in the banking, retail, and telecommunications sectors have all contributed to a rise in foreign investment. In 2012 Turkey's credit rating was upgraded by the Fitch Group to an investment grade after a gap of 18 years.