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Destinations

TURKEY

  • GENERAL INFORMATION

Location: Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia (that portion of Turkey west of the Bosporus is geographically part of Europe), bordering the Black Sea, between Bulgaria and Georgia, and bordering the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Syria

Border Countries: Armenia 311 km, Azerbaijan 17 km, Bulgaria 223 km, Georgia 273 km, Greece 192 km, Iran 534 km, Iraq 367 km, Syria 899 km

Area: 783,562 sq km

Population: 79,414,269

Capital City: Ankara (population 4.75 million)

Religions: Muslim 99.8% (mostly Sunni), other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)

Government type: parliamentary republic

Coastline: 7,200 km

Highest point: Mount Ararat 5,166 m

Roadways: 385,754 km

Time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

National currency: Turkish Lira

International dialing number: +90

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

  • VISA

Even though Turkey is a candidate country for the membership in the European Union, it has a more complicated visa policy than the Visa policy of the Schengen Area. Turkey requires visas from citizens of certain EU member states and Schengen Annex II countries and territories – Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Dominica, East Timor, Grenada, Ireland, Kiribati, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Norway, Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Portugal, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Spain, Taiwan, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vanuatu. On the other hand, Turkey grants visa-free access to citizens of countries and territories – Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Ecuador, Georgia, Iran, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.          

  • CLIMATE

temperate; hot, dry summers with mild, wet winters; harsher in interior

  • TERRAIN

high central plateau (Anatolia); narrow coastal plain; several mountain ranges;strategic location controlling the Turkish Straits (Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link the Black and Aegean Seas; Mount Ararat, the legendary landing place of Noah's ark, is in the far eastern portion of the country

  • LANGUAGES

Turkish (official), Kurdish, other minority languages

  • ETHNIC GROUPS

Turkish 70-75%, Kurdish 18%, other minorities 7-12%

  • HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa KEMAL, who was later honored with the title Ataturk or "Father of the Turks." Under his leadership, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms. After a period of one-party rule, an experiment with multi-party politics led to the 1950 election victory of the opposition Democratic Party and the peaceful transfer of power. Since then, Turkish political parties have multiplied, but democracy has been fractured by periods of instability and intermittent military coups (1960, 1971, 1980), which in each case eventually resulted in a return of political power to civilians. In 1997, the military again helped engineer the ouster - popularly dubbed a "post-modern coup" - of the then Islamic-oriented government. Turkey intervened militarily on Cyprus in 1974 to prevent a Greek takeover of the island and has since acted as patron state to the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which only Turkey recognizes. A separatist insurgency begun in 1984 by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) - now known as the Kurdistan People's Congress or Kongra-Gel (KGK) - dominated the Turkish military's attention and claimed more than 30,000 lives. After the capture of the group's leader in 1999, the insurgents largely withdrew from Turkey mainly to northern Iraq. In 2013, the PKK and the Turkish Government agreed to a cease-fire, but fighting resumed in 2015. Turkey joined the UN in 1945 and in 1952 it became a member of NATO. In 1963, Turkey became an associate member of the European Community; it began accession membership talks with the EU in 2005. Over the past decade, economic reforms have contributed to a quickly growing economy.

  • ECONOMY OVERVIEW

Turkey's largely free-market economy is increasingly driven by its industry and service sectors, although its traditional agriculture sector still accounts for about 25% of employment. An aggressive privatization program has reduced state involvement in basic industry, banking, transport, and communication. An emerging cadre of middle-class entrepreneurs is adding dynamism to the economy and expanding production beyond the traditional textiles and clothing sectors. The automotive, petrochemical, and electronics industries are rising in importance and have surpassed textiles within Turkey's export mix.

Oil began to flow through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline in May 2006, marking a major milestone that has brought up to 1 million barrels per day from the Caspian region to market. The joint Turkish-Azeri Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) is moving forward to help transport Caspian gas to Europe through Turkey, helping to address Turkey's dependence on imported gas, which currently meets 98% of its energy needs.

After Turkey experienced a severe financial crisis in 2001, Ankara adopted financial and fiscal reforms as part of an IMF program. The reforms strengthened the country's economic fundamentals and ushered in an era of strong growth averaging more than 6% annually until 2008. Global economic conditions and tighter fiscal policy caused GDP to contract in 2009, but Turkey's well-regulated financial markets and banking system helped the country weather the global financial crisis, and GDP rebounded strongly to around 9% in 2010-11, as exports returned to normal levels following the crisis. Two rating agencies upgraded Turkey's debt to investment grade in 2012 and 2013, and Turkey's public sector debt to GDP ratio fell to 33% in 2014. The stock value of Foreign Direct Investment reached nearly $195 billion at yearend 2014.

Despite these positive trends, GDP growth dropped to 4.4% in 2013 and 2.9% in 2014. Growth slowed considerably in the last quarter of 2014, largely due to lackluster consumer demand both domestically and in Europe, Turkey’s most important export market. High interest rates have also contributed to the slowdown in growth, as Turkey sharply increased interest rates in January 2014 in order to strengthen the country’s currency and reduce inflation. Turkey then cut rates in February 2015 in a bid to spur economic growth.

The Turkish economy retains significant weaknesses. Specifically, Turkey's relatively high current account deficit, uncertain commitment to structural reform, and turmoil within Turkey's neighborhood leave the economy vulnerable to destabilizing shifts in investor confidence. Turkey also remains overly dependent on often volatile, short-term investment to finance its large current account deficit.

  • FLAG DESCRIPTION

Red with a vertical white crescent moon (the closed portion is toward the hoist side) and white five-pointed star centered just outside the crescent opening; the flag colors and designs closely resemble those on the banner of the Ottoman Empire, which preceded modern-day Turkey; the crescent moon and star serve as insignia for the Turks, as well as being traditional symbols of Islam; according to legend, the flag represents the reflection of the moon and a star in a pool of blood of Turkish warriors.