Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to B&H, Haldun Koc has been in the office for more than a year. Numerous projects implemented by this embassy in B&H have taken Ambassador Koc throughout our country. Ambassador Koc speaks about his impressions of this beautiful country, tourism potentials, economic opportunities, in an interview for the VISIT B&H magazine.
You have been an Ambassador to B&H for more than a year. Can you tell us your impressions of B&H?
-Bosnia and Herzegovina is very important for us and many things binds us. We have various and specific feelings for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and because of that we work every day to make these relations as good as possible and to improve and develop them as much as possible. Since I have assumed the duty of the ambassador in your beautiful country, I have been trying to develop and nurture those relations as much as possible. There is another important factor that binds us, and these are the Bosnians and Herzegovinians with whom we share the past, tradition, culture …
Due to the numerous projects of the Turkish Embassy, you often travel around Bosnia and Herzegovina. What impressed you most, and what are the natural beauties of B&H that remained in your finest memory?
– I cannot extract one or two natural beauties or part of Bosnia and Herzegovina that I like most, because the whole country is beautiful. Every city, village, every place is beautiful in its own way. No destination can be singled out, but each has immense tourism potential. I have not yet visited a part o fit without wishing to return there. I cannot decide if I like more the trip from Sarajevo to Mostar and everything that can be seen on this road, or it’s even better to go to a mountain, to Krajina, Tuzla, Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Višegrad … B&H is a very rich country and deserves to have these potentials worked on and develop tourism for the benefit of all inhabitants.
You said that B&H is a beautiful country. What do you think about BH tourism potentials? In your opinion, what is your chance to develop tourism here and how much can we learn from Turkey, since tourism in Turkey is extremely developed?
What makes the heart of tourism in Turkey I see in B&H. It is a traditional feeling of hospitality for every guest. When a guest enters the house of a citizen of Turkey, he or she becomes a priority in every sense. A host puts all its plans and obligations in second place, and the priorities are desires and comfort of a guest. It is a fact that adorns B&H as well and is an important basis for tourism development. Of course, there is also the need to build road infrastructure, hotels and other facilities, but all of this will come when you have a good base, which is hospitality and cordiality. It is also important to promote potentials, to present what people can see, experience and expect in B&H. Tourism is an exceptional potential and it brings revenue that will initiate the construction of new hotels and other tourist infrastructure projects. Building road infrastructure will surely contribute to making the journey easier and make a greater number of people decide to come to B&H. What attracts and will attract even more tourists is the cultural and historical wealth of B&H, multiculturalism, richness of diversity. Bosnia and Herzegovina offers all this in a relatively small space.
Traditional Bosnian food is quite similar to Turkey’s considering the past that binds us. Can you tell us what are the differences and how much do you like Bosnian traditional cuisine?
– Turkish people as passengers have one particularity. When traveling around the world, they do not seek new and different tastes. When they find tastes that are close to them, they stay loyal to it and return there. I am the same myself. When the food is concerned, I feel very comfortable here. That is why a large number of Turkish tourists come here, because they know that they will be served what they are used to. That is a very important moment. Whatever restaurant I go, if they have a good bey’s soup and burek, the rest of the menu is not important to me. As far as differences are concerned, I did not know about topa (melted cheese and butter) which is served during Ramadan. As far as I know, we don’t have topa. Now I know that topa must be served at the beginning of the iftar and fasting simply cannot be ended without it.
This is one of the reasons for the great presence of Turkish tourists in B&H. Can we expect an increase in their number in the coming period?
-B&H is a special country for the citizens of Turkey and we see this by increased number of tourists, number of overnight stays, by the more frequent arrivals of Turkish tourists. This is also evident in numbers, because in recent years around 90,000 guests came from Turkey and this number is constantly growing. We believe that this is a two-way street and that the citizens of B&H visit Turkey, so we have to work together to increase both numbers through a good promotion that will bring Turkish tourists to every corner of B&H and vice versa.
There are many educational and cultural institutions in B&H. There are many Turkish investors, but also those who want to become that. What needs to be done to increase this number further?
-There are many companies from Turkey that are working hard to have good relations between the two countries develop even more in every aspect. There is a strong political will for this and we will certainly use it. When it comes to investors, we expect BH side to create more favorable conditions for their businesses, to make these conditions attractive to investors who will opt precisely for B&H. First of all, I’m talking about initial point, before starting a business. That’s what an investor who comes from B&H to Turkey would expect. This is our request, that there are better conditions for investing, but also after that. Some of our long-standing investors in B&H have a need for raw materials produced in B&H and this is creating a problem for them. We also have those who would like to invest more, but they also have some problems. The revised Free Trade Agreement is a legal framework that is extremely important and will help not only in the trade exchange but also with other aspects. Perhaps in the near future, a high official’s visit from Turkey will result in signing of that agreement.
Which business branches in B&H are most interesting for Turkish businessmen?
It’s not just the trade. These are primarily animal husbandry and agriculture. In countries with a favorable climate for the natural development of these branches of the economy, which is the case in B&H, Turkey is considering new investments. This is a country whose industry has great potential. B&H has been rather industrialized before and it is very important for us. There are also tourist potentials. I know a Turkish investor who has invested significant funds in the tourist infrastructure around Mostar. Maybe they are few, but there are also investors in the field of tourism who want to come to B&H. What I consider very important, and Turkey has proved to be good in it worldwide, is the construction sector. We are open to attracting the construction sector with the best and most famous Turkish companies to B&H.
Turkey is an increasingly important foreign trade partner of B&H. Will the volume of foreign trade be increased in the future?
– Our trade in recent years has grown visibly. In 2003, it amounted to about $ 70 million, to $ 700 million last year. This is what is visible and what we all do and what we will continue doing.
Do you have any message for the citizens of B&H for the end of this conversation?
– We want a stable, integrated and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is the goal of our foreign policy. We do not want anything that would cause any destabilization in B&H and the region. All this would prevent a stronger economy. These are the things we want, which means prosperity and economically strong and stable B&H, but also the region. That is why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered the idea that Turkey supports the construction of a highway between Sarajevo and Belgrade. It is an idea to build a circle that would bring the economic prosperity of the entire region and bring prosperity and stability to all. We support B&H on the road to the European Union and NATO and we are at the forefront of countries that want it from the heart to Bosnia and Herzegovina.