Turkey has been seeking to benefit from more pre-accession EU funds for projects amid its harmonization efforts with the bloc, Turkey's industry and technology minister said on Monday.
The financial and technical support provided by these programs will help small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) improve their R&D and innovation capabilities and increase their export potential, he noted during an event titled Competitive Sectors Program in the capital Ankara.
Starting Monday, the two-day event aims to promote projects contributing to the targets of the joint industry policy of Turkey and the EU.
Turkey has distributed €800 million ($955 million) in pre-accession EU funds to SMEs, Varank said, adding: "We realized 46 projects worth €520 million across 43 of our cities under the first part of the Competitive Sectors Program in the 2007-2013 period."
"The Gobeklitepe project was one of them and was listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site," he noted.
In the second term of the program between 2014-2020, 41 projects received a total budget of €260 million, he said.
"These include a wide variety of projects, from the development of domestic COVID-19 vaccines and drugs to autonomous vehicles, from the digital game industry to obtaining fuel from algae, from the fight against cancer to digital transformation."
Varank noted that in the second IPA term, SMEs and entrepreneurs in Turkey established partnerships with Europe's leading institutions and participated in large-scale cooperation projects.
Turkey also will continue its technical support for capacity-development projects in the IPA III period between 2021 and 2027, he added.
The EU-backed Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) funds are a financial apparatus for candidate countries and are used towards projects and programs for alignment with the EU acquis, enhancing their capacity for economic and social cohesion.
- Green Deal
"Turkey will expand its national investment incentive system in line with areas prioritized by EU Green Deal," Varank also underlined, adding that more funding and technical support would be given to such projects in this area.
"To encourage planned industrialization and protect the ecological balance, we are transitioning to Green Organized Industrial Zones," he said.
Citing the EU's aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, Varank referred to a recent document published by the bloc on new industry and SME strategies to realize the ecological and digital transformation of its industry.
"To finance the investments required for this transformation, the InvestEU program was commissioned in the period 2021-2027. This program, which will mobilize resources of approximately €1 trillion, will provide resources and budget guarantees for the investments required for the green and digital transformation," he noted.
Varank added that Turkey is aware of the importance of strengthening its ties with the EU, focusing on efforts for full membership.
- Turkey-EU trade ties
"The program under IPA is one of the most important tools to continue this cooperation through supporting the green and digital transition of the Turkish industry," said Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, the head of the EU Delegation to Turkey.
He also said the program would increase productivity and enable an innovation-driven economy.
"Science, research, green growth and climate change will remain as key European priorities for the future," added Meyer-Landrut.
"Here in Turkey, we will continue supporting the competitiveness, science, technology and innovation activities, as well as the implementation of COSME [EU program for the Competitiveness of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises] and Horizon Europe."
Landrut also commented on the Turkish government's fresh economic reform package, hoping it would positively contribute to the Turkish economy by focusing on key areas such as productivity, digital transformation, green economy and energy efficiency.
"Investing in these areas is increasingly crucial for shaping a better future through smart, sustainable, inclusive and green growth," he said.
The EU is by far Turkey's number-one import and export partner, as well as a source of investments, he reminded, saying the overall trade between Turkey and EU exceeded €130 billion ($155 billion) in goods and services.
"This deep trade and economic integration is clearly helped by the enabling role of the EU-Turkey Customs Union," he underlined.
Turkey is closely integrated into EU value chains and serves as a major production hub for EU companies and is important for European competitiveness, he added.
By Aysu Bicer and Yunus Girgin