The Tuesday meeting was chaired by Member of European Parliament Anneli Tuulikki Jäätteenmäki, prime minister of Finland from May to June 2003. Proceedings featured UNITEE President Adem Kumcu, Finnish Ambassador to Brussels Per-Mikael Engberg and trade and industry representatives from the Scandinavian country on Europe's northeastern frontier -- bordering Russia to the east -- as speakers.
UNITEE has previously held similar events with Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. The organization has rapidly come to prominence in European circles due to the intensity of programs it has hosted since its foundation just over a year ago.
Delivering the opening remarks at Tuesday's gathering, Jäätteenmäki noted that Turkey and Finland remain relatively less vulnerable to the financial problems experienced on the continent, and that it would be logical to increase bilateral cooperation at this critical time. “The European Union is now in a [financial] crisis, but exactly the opposite is taking place in Turkey. There we have a skyrocketing economy. And developments in Finland are comparatively better than in EU members because in Finland we have very good commercial relations with other countries,” she said, adding that she would like to see more Turkish entrepreneurs and students in her country.
According to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) figures, bilateral trade volume between EU-candidate Turkey and long-time member Finland rose some 16 percent to $1.65 billion last year, compared with the preceding year. Data on commercial relations between Turkish entrepreneurs based across Europe and their counterparts in Finland is, however, not available. “That UNITEE is working with, and to the benefit of, Finland is pleasing. Finland is a highly successful country in trade. We are actually a country that is economically developing every year, but we have to work harder. We should particularly speed up joint efforts,” Ambassador Engberg told participants at the conference.
For his part, Kumcu emphasized the work of his organization in developing economic relations between the Euro-Turkish community and peripheral countries of the 27-member union. He said UNITEE is attempting to facilitate the getting-to-know-you phase of relations with otherwise distant people within the EU, and to mobilize them in order to strengthen social as well as economic bonds, serving the core ideal of the union.