Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 10th May, 2007
Earlier today I attended a seminar and lunch (organsed by International Financial Services London — IFSL — and hosted by the international law firm Ince & Co) at which the speaker was Osman Birsen, the very affable Chairman and CEO of the Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE). Turkey has been through some rocky economic times in recent years, but hyper-inflation is a thing of the past and economic growth is currently strong. Nearly three quarters of the $40 billion of inward investment in Turkey since 1995 has come in over the past two years. And over two-thirds of the shares on the ISE are held by foreigners. The standards the ISE operates to are in harmony with the European Single Market practices and Mr Birsen is confident that things are on track for eventual EU membership, though that is highly unlikely to happen for more than a decade. In the meantime, Istanbul is consolidating its position as an economic as well as physical bridge between Europe and Asia. Mr Olsen is Chairman of a Euro-Asian Stock Exchange network, which now groups 32 exchanges in 29 countries, many of these in the process of rapid transition.
One hurdle that has to be overcome regarding Turkey’s integration into Europe is the hostility evident in some current EU member states, not least Austria, France and Germany. Some of that is blatantly islamophobic — all the more ridiculous given Turkey’s secular constitution and society. The advent of Nicolas Sarkozy to the Elysée Palace is bad news for Turkey’s friends in the EU, on the basis of what he has been saying on the campaign trail. As Osman Birsen remarked today, Turkey has its work cut out to sell itself in Europe as a desirable member of the family –a task that cannot only be left to politicians.