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France and Turkey

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Political relations

- History of French-Turkish relations: see the website of the French Embassy in Turkey (in French)

The French-Turkish relationship has been characterized in recent years by differences on issues of Turkey’s accession to the EU and the Armenian genocide. Upon the election of President François Hollande, both countries expressed their willingness to enter a “new era” of bilateral relations. The President of the Republic has called for the establishment of a stable, trusting relationship between the two countries, as France considers Turkey to be an important partner with which it wishes to maintain a strong, friendly and sustainable relationship.

And bilateral dialogue is indeed well developed:

  • convergence on major international events: our two countries have held regular meetings on international issues, e.g. the crises in the Near and Middle East, the financial crisis, the G20, climate issues;
  • cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism;
  • regular high-level contact: on 27-28 January 2014, the President of the French Republic travelled to Turkey for a State visit, the first since 1992. On that occasion, a strategic framework of cooperation was signed between the two Foreign Ministers. At the first meeting of this strategic framework, which took place in Paris on 10 October 2014, a 2014-2016 action plan was adopted as a genuine roadmap for our bilateral relations.

Economic and trade relations

In 2014, France was Turkey’s 7th largest supplier with €5.9 billion in exports and its 5th largest customer with imports totalling €6.1 billion. Globally, Turkey is our 14th largest market and our 6th largest customer outside the EU and Switzerland, behind the United States, China, Japan, Russia and Algeria. It accounts for 1.4 % of our exports. Since 2012, however, French exports to Turkey have been in steady decline. Although our trade balance traditionally shows a surplus, in 2014, for the second time this decade, it ran a slight deficit.

This loss of French market share can also be explained by a structural reorganization of Turkey’s trade towards the Near and Middle East, the Caucasus and Asia. The European Union remains Turkey’s largest trading partner but its share in Turkish purchases fell from 48 % in 2002 to 36 % in 2014. Over the same period, Asian countries’ share (excluding Australia and New Zealand) increased from 12% to 23%, with China becoming Turkey’s main supplier in the first half of 2015.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Turkey is one of France’s main partners in this area.

Institutional and technical cooperation (including civil service and land management) is particularly important. This cooperation aims to strengthen the rule of law and civil liberties and to increase administrative capacity by providing training in European affairs for senior officials, training for prefects and magistrates and support for modernizing the police forces.

Language and educational cooperation aims to promote the teaching of French. Indeed, despite the long-standing Francophonie in the country, only 1 % of Turkish students speak French. The goal is to increase the number of students learning French following the introduction of a compulsory second language in Turkish secondary schools.

The instruments of Francophonie are:

  • 1/ A network of 10 bilingual schools, which are essential for our cooperation, with a total of over 9,000 students; the lycée (secondary school) and University of Galatasaray; six French private congregational schools; the Tevfik Fikret Turkish private secular foundation. In 2012, the six private schools and the Tevfik Fikret Foundation were admitted to the LabelFrancÉducation programme of excellence.
  • 2/ MICEL (Educational and Linguistics Cooperation Mission), a financially independent institution created in 1994 to make French teachers available for the Galatasaray integrated framework (lycée and university).
  • 3/ Two French schools (accredited by the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE)): the lycée Charles de Gaulle in Ankara and the lycée Pierre Loti in Istanbul, with a total of over 1,800 students, 43% of whom are French.

In the area of research, which is booming in Turkish society, the priority is to build cooperation around the Programme Bosphore (Hubert Curien Partnerships (PHC)) with the Tübitak (The Scientific and Research Council of Turkey) (the equivalent of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS)). With regard to social and human sciences and archaeology, the “Georges Dumézil” French Institute for Anatolian Studies (IFEA), founded in Istanbul in 1930, is an excellent facility.

In the area of academic cooperation, the goal is to increase France’s attractiveness and expand the co-funded scholarship programmes to the Turkish elite, whether they be French-speakers or more focused on the English-speaking world. The number of Turkish students choosing to study France is growing (around 2,000), but remains insufficient. France is the 3rd largest host country (after Germany and the United States). French higher education is mainly promoted through Campus France branches. France holds a special position in Turkey due to the success of Galatasaray University in Istanbul. Founded in 1992, the University is made up of five Faculties (Law, Communication, Economic and Administrative Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Technology) with over 3,000 students spread out over five years of education.

Cultural and artistic cooperation is supported by the Institut Français in Turkey, a unique cultural institution with sites in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. There is also an Alliance Française in Adana. Another branch is set to open soon in Bursa.

Updated: 15/12/2015

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