Written Answers. - Turkish-Irish Relations.

Dinny McGinley


37 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on Turkish-Irish relations. [22052/98]

As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland's relations with Turkey are very good and have intensified in recent years. The Irish Embassy in Rome has been accredited to Turkey since 1979. The recent decision of the Government to open a new Embassy in Ankara is evidence of a significant strengthening of diplomatic ties between our two countries.

Our economic relations with Turkey are developing well. Turkey was Ireland's 29th largest export market in 1997. Trade in both directions has grown rapidly since the establishment of a customs union with the EU on 1 January 1996. Irish exports to Turkey grew by 54 per cent in 1997 to reach over £120 million. Ireland's imports from Turkey increased by 28 per cent in 1997 to reach £57.6 million. Turkey has imported neither beef nor cattle in recent years but, following negotiations with the European Union, the market may be opened in the coming year, thus offering possible opportunities for Irish exporters. Also, a number of Turkish financial institutions have established operations in the IFSC.

It is clear that following the end of the Cold War, Turkey's size and geographical position straddling continents and cultures mean that it will play an increasingly important economic and political role in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In this context, Turkey's desire to strengthen its relations with Ireland and other EU member states is welcome. We also welcome Turkey's commitment to pursuing further reforms in the area of human rights and protection of minorities.