I am honored to address this assembly where the national will of the Tunisian people with whom we have deep-rooted amity and friendship is truly displayed.
It is a great privilege for me to address you who are building the future of Tunisia, which ignited the fuse of the Arab Spring and the Arab Awakening.
I would like to evince my excitement and pride on behalf of myself and my nation to deliver a speech, as the first foreign head of state, to the representatives of Tunisia.
I am excited as you are a torch that will illuminate the future of both Tunisia and the whole of the Arab world.
I am excited as this assembly is an edifice of democracy to which all our sister countries, which have struggled and are struggling for freedom, rights, justice and honor at all costs, turn their faces.
I am excited as you are not writing history; you are making it indeed.
The very accomplishment of the Tunisian people is simply historic one. I recall before the Arab Spring triggered by the Jasmine Revolution those in 1848 and 1989 in Europe. I have also underscored that this transformation is an irreversible process emanating from fast flow of history.
Therefore, you as the nation of Tunisia have every right to be proud of your accomplishments. The Turkish nation appreciates the achievements you have obtained so far in this regard.
The Founding Assembly of Tunisia, under the roof of which we are standing now, is the only parliament among those of the countries affected by the Arab Spring which has elected a President and a Parliament Speaker and which has established a government.
You have realized a national unity and accordance with a democratic understanding and maturity, all of which have not been achieved by any country that has experienced a revolution.
You have achieved the revolution at a relatively low cost. You have not allowed more blood to be shed nor have you let anyone breed bad blood or allowed anyone to destroy the state institutions.
You have also succeeded in establishing a founding assembly which reverberates all the colors and preferences of the Tunisian people and which has a great quality of representation.
In the light of these facts, I wholeheartedly believe that the Founding Assembly of Tunisia will prepare a constitution that will draw a road map for a new democratic and prosperous Tunisia meticulously and maturely.
It is, as a matter of fact, not a coincidence that the Jasmine Revolution, the spring of the Arab Spring, flowered in this soil.
It is a historic event impossible to explain as a coincidence whereby the very fuse of the third democratic wave in modern history was ignited in Tunisia, where the great Islamic thinker, Ibn Khaldun, who represented the climax of the Islamic enlightenment, was born.
And this revolution initiated by the Tunisian youth and intellectuals will have its place in history as did the first democratic wave taking place in Western Europe and America and the second one experienced in Eastern Europe and Latin America after 1989.
Therefore, the Tunisian people and this assembly which represents them have assumed an honorable mission with great responsibilities indeed. Many a community in the whole of the world including the Arab and Islamic world who struggle for freedom, justice, rights and honor have turned their minds and hearts to you.
That Tunisia can conclude the democratization process through which it has considerably progressed will serve as a beacon of hope and guide for those in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In this vein, you have to succeed not only for Tunisia but also for all Muslims and humanity in the end, which is what I mean by making history.
You should advance in this historic transition process by embracing all walks of life in Tunisia, leaving the old ideological separations behind.
The key to success will be for you to focus all your energy on economic development and democratic reforms, not allowing any revanchist feelings and any “social engineering projects” as in the past.
When this process can be managed within the framework of “democratic legitimacy” and “social accord”, you will gain much in terms of the establishment of stability, peace and security as well as expansion of prosperity.
Thus, the orientalist misconception that Islam and democracy and the “socio-cultural texture” of the region and “modernity” cannot find an accord will be rebutted.
A successful economic infrastructure is the most important factor to consolidate and enhance the democratic acquisitions. I am saying this from what we have experienced in Turkey.
Behind Turkey’s economic, political and diplomatic performance lie the comprehensive legal and economic reforms it has implemented in the last decade.
The Tunisian people’s basic expectation from the democratic government, although the revolution is relatively new, will be that they find solutions to their economic problems and that they expand the fields of freedom. In this vein, you should implement the necessary legal and economic reforms without delay.
While doing this, you should be realistic and put into practice your medium and long-term programs with patience and great self-confidence.
These policies without a doubt involve hard work and great sacrifices for the Tunisian people.
Neither Tunisia nor Turkey is rich in natural gas and petrol. On the other hand, both are very rich in terms of human resources.
We, during our economic developments, can compensate this deficiency in energy and such natural resources by working more, taking advantage of our human resources in the best way and implementing the right policies at the right time.
It is a fact experienced throughout the world that short term, provisional and populist solutions in the economy make problems more complex.
One should have self-confidence in this regard as Ibn Khaldun wrote in “the Muqaddimah” centuries ago who, in the history of economic thought, is referred to for an understanding of the free market economy and the reformist policies of our common hero, Hayrettin Pasha of Tunisia, serve as a torch that enlightens us even today.
One should keep in mind that democracy is not a “regime for static perfection” at all. It is rather a “progressive” regime that necessitates reform, change and advancement all the time, which is why I often call for reform during my speeches in Turkey.
Consequently, the democracy you have brought through the Jasmine Revolution is a value like jasmine which is delicate and should be cherished. It should be a priority for all the Tunisian people and the Tunisian administration to protect and progress this value with patience.
The Tunisian flag, after the Turkish one, is one of the flags in our world that excites me the most.
Our flags, with their red color, crescent and star, are the symbols of our historic fraternity. The crescent and star are the common ground for the Turks and the Moors on both sides of the Mediterranean.
This resemblance is a demonstration of the common fate, love and affection our peoples bear for each other. It is also a manifestation of our 400-year-long common history.
The common fate of our peoples prevented Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and even Morocco from being exposed to the same fate that Andalusia went through under the domination of the European colonial powers in the past.
Likewise, thanks to the support of our Maghribi brothers and sisters and the great Maghribi statesmen, Chief Admirals and brave seafarers, the Turks were able to continue their existence in the Mediterranean as a great power, thus, making all the efforts to remove the Turks and Muslims from Europe and Anatolia fruitless.
Moreover, the blood tie between the two nations brings us closer to each other. I know that there are many a Tunisian of Turkish origin. As a natural result of living together for centuries, we have a number of Turkish citizens of Tunisian origin as well in Turkey.
In this regard, it is one of the good examples for our common history and blood tie that the Tunisian people who fought against the enemy shoulder to shoulder with the Ottoman army during the Crimean War of 1853-1856 founded a village called “Tunisianville” in what is now the province of Kastamonu.
We also know the fact that in 1911 when the Ottomans defended Libya, many Tunisian mujahids fought against the enemy with them.
Today, our fate intersects once again in the struggle for democracy, human rights and development.
It is our duty and responsibility in this transition period to display a quintessential solidarity in every way at the bilateral and international level with our Tunisian brothers and sisters with whom we have such close and intimate relations.
The establishment of a parliamentarian, pluralistic and democratic regime takes time, patience and great effort indeed. We would be pleased in this process to share our country’s political, economic and social experiences with Tunisia.
In this vein, Turkey is one of the countries that have stood by the January 14 Revolution right after which a number of delegations from our country visited Tunisia.
In September 2011, Prime Minister Erdoğan along with other Ministers arrived in Tunisia, where he wholeheartedly shared the excitement and joy of our Tunisian brothers and sisters.
Furthermore, your Foreign Minister Rafiq Abdessalam paid his first foreign visit to Turkey, which made us happy. During this visit, the parties agreed to establish a “High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council between Turkey and Tunisia”.
With this council which we establish with only our sister countries, PMs and Ministers meet regularly.
The parties, during this visit, also signed an action plan for 2012 which is a road map for our bilateral relations.
We know since the time of Ibn Khaldun that economic development is one of the basic dynamics to create a virtuous society governed with democracy. It is also a fact that the countries enjoying robust economic relations get mutually stronger.
Therefore, we wish to boost and deepen our bilateral economic relations with Tunisia in every way and urge our entrepreneurs to have partnerships with their Tunisian counterparts to invest in Tunisia so that our economic cooperation and solidarity can be enhanced.
We in this regard have held meetings where businessmen from both countries get together.
We as the Turkish state have also provided the Tunisian businessmen with a 500 million-dollar credit line from the Turkish Eximbank in order to increase the current cooperation and strengthen the investments in Tunisia.
Further, our studies to open an office of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) in Tunisia are continuing.
There is no doubt that the corroboration of the international community in the ongoing historic democratization and reconstruction process is of great importance.
I have long reiterated that the economically developed countries of the international community and the international finance institutions should implement a comprehensive economic restoration program like the Marshall Plan put into practice after World War II.
Before the whole of Europe and the international community lies an opportunity to make the Mediterranean an area of prosperity and grandeur once again as it used to be and to turn the Middle East into a region that produces stability and wealth.
All the same, these countries, with the excuse that there is currently an economic crisis in the developed market economies especially, act with negligence and indifference to the efforts to support the historic transformation in the region.
I would like to call on the powerful members of the international community that spend trillions of dollars to finance wars and on crisis management to seize this golden opportunity in their hands to support peace, democracy and stability.
In ending my speech, I would like to reiterate that the Turkish nation and the state wholeheartedly lend their corroboration for Tunisia and our Tunisian brothers and sisters in their historic mission.
I hereby remember Mohamed Bouazizi, who sparked the revolution, and other martyrs who sacrificed themselves for a freer, more just and more honorable life with respect and I would like to extend my condolences to their families they left behind. May they rest in peace!
Thank you all.