‘Turkish firms in Serbia have access to EU, Russia’

BELGRADE, Serbia (AA): Turkey’s ambassador to Belgrade Tanju Bilgic said the Turkish companies investing in Serbia have access to both EU and Russian markets.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Bilgic said the positive implications of the two-day visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Serbia and the agreements signed during this visit are continuing.

A review of a bilateral free trade agreement was signed alongside twelve other agreements in the presence of Erdogan and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in October last year.

The Turkish ambassador emphasized that it is “extremely important” for Turkish companies to invest in Serbia to achieve the trade volume target of $2 billion.

“A target of $2 billion trade volume is not a dream, it is quite a realistic goal. Last year we achieved the trade volume of $1.1 billion. With the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement, this figure will increase,” said Bilgic.

Recalling that Serbia has signed a free trade agreement with Russia, Bilgic said Turkish companies investing here could easily access to both EU and Russian markets.

“The Customs Union Agreement between Serbia and the European Union (EU) provides important opportunities for Turkish investors because the EU is one of the major markets for Turkish exports,” said Bilgic.

Meanwhile, Halkbank Serbia’s Director Kenan Bozkurt said that Serbia is a “gateway to both East and West”.

‘Gateway to east and west’

“Our goal is to be a bridge between Serbia and Turkey, both in the region and to facilitate access to the EU market. Serbia is a gateway to both east and the west. We are aiming to reach Europe and Asia with our branches in Turkey and Serbia.

Halkbank is one of Turkey’s biggest banks and a state-run lender. It bought a 76.76 percent stake in Serbia’s local lender, Cacanska Banka, on May 20, 2015. The bank opened its first branch in Serbia in October 2015.

Bozkurt noted that Halkbank also wants to take part in Serbia’s agriculture.

“Halkbank has also participated in the agrarian forum twice, and we want to take part in such projects more often because our work is with the public,” said Bozkurt.

The bank operates with more than 400 employees and currently has 32 branches and offices throughout Serbia and several new branches to be opened by the end of 2018.

Halkbank is the second-largest state lender after Ziraat Bank in Turkey with 900 branches and 19,000 employees.

Nearly half of Halkbank’s shares are traded on Turkey’s main stock exchange, the Borsa Istanbul.