On Wednesday night, a report claiming that the German government put pressure on German banks and international development and finance institutions to reduce funding to Turkey hit the wires and sent the Turkish lira to a new low. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Bloomberg report maintained that more than a dozen government and banking officials confirmed Germany's efforts to tighten funding to Turkey and strict ties with Turkish banks. However, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which was included among the multilateral development organizations, released statements confirming their commitment to Turkey and continuity of their operations in the country.
Likewise, European Investment Bank (EIB) and Commerzbank, also named in the report, also highlighted that no change has been introduced in their ties or cooperation with Turkey.
For over two months, the political tension that has been going on between Turkey and Germany has been attempted to reflect in almost two-century long economic ties. After Turkish authorities and German companies have made significant efforts to maintain long-standing economic collaboration, the future of mutual investments have been assured with German factories opening and companies taking important investment decisions in the country.
The latest report which suggested that international development institutions such as EIB and EBRD as well as German banks have been under pressure by the government to reduce their funding and limiting their ties with Turkey have complicated the issue one more time. Yet, mitigating statements from the parties that cited in the aforementioned report have been instrumental in assuring the sustainability of the cooperation between these institutions and Turkey.
In a statement, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which recently provided $500 million for the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline project that will carry Azeri gas to Europe via Turkey, has said the organization remains committed to Turkey and continues to engage with the country.The bank has invested in 240 projects in Turkey, 97 percent in private sector, including infrastructure, sustainable energy, agribusiness, industry and finance, according to the bank's website. The bank's current portfolio of projects totals to 7 million euros. Turkey is the largest country of operation by annual investment volume and portfolio size at the EBRD.
To date, the bank has invested over 9.5 billion euros, and 30 projects worth almost 1 billion euros had been signed so far this year. "We expect to exceed 1.5 billion euros in investment in 2017," the bank told.
The EBRD is a leading investor in Turkey which was the biggest recipient of EBRD funds last year and has offices in Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep. The bank made significant investments in the Eurasian Tunnel, subway constructions in Istanbul and İzmir, private energy companies like Enerjisa, laboratories at universities, Turk Telekom projects and many others.
Mehmet Şimşek, the deputy Prime Minister in charge of economy, cited his recent meeting with the EBRD administration and confirmed that the bank has allocated 1.65 billion euros for its investment projects in Turkey.
Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci also pointed out the "unsubstantiated" nature of these allegations and said, "The institutions themselves like EBRD have stated that these rumors are unsubstantiated. The EBRD told that they have not decided any restriction in funding to Turkey." Minister Zeybekci also noted that these rumors are temporary fabricated by speculators.
In an exchange with Daily Sabah, European Investment Bank Press Officer Marco Santarelli elaborated on the EIB's investments in Turkey. Recalling that EIB began investing in Turkey over five decades ago in 1963, he stressed that the bank has ramped up its lending volume to Turkey to a significant extent after the EU accession negotiations with Turkey were launched.
Over the past ten years, the EIB has consistently provided over 2 billion euros per year for Turkish projects, including the Eurasian Tunnel, the high speed train connection between Istanbul and Ankara, and the TERRA program of rebuilding after the 1999 earthquake and the improvement of earthquake protection.
The bank has been supporting infrastructure projects, providing loans to banks for on-lending to small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), and direct loans to businesses, especially in the fields of energy and research, Santarelli informed. He also stressed that in the first nine months of the year, the EIB has signed six finance contracts for projects in Turkey with a total value of 507 million euros. "It is at present not possible to make a forecast for the whole of 2017, but it can be expected that the financing volume will turn out to be markedly lower than in previous years," he added, emphasizing that the bank is determined to continue its operations in Turkey.
In a reply to Daily Sabah's questions, Commerzbank, which was included in the Bloomberg report as the German bank that is reviewing its ties with Turkish banks for "reputational risk," also highlighted the bank's commitment to Turkey and continuity of its cooperation with Turkish corporations and banks.
"Commerzbank's commitment to its business in Turkey remains unchanged within the existing business guidelines and policies. Commerzbank remains committed to its business with Turkish corporates and banks and accompanies the Turkish business and trade of German corporates," said a spokesperson of Commerzbank.
Commerzbank has been operating in Turkey for 30 years and the bank has been providing syndicated loans for Turkish banks, both public and private, in a bid to facilitate their operations. Commerzbank opened its foreign representation in Istanbul in 1987. In this very first year, it played the lead role with the first foreign bond to be issued by the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey (CBRT). Commerzbank today has close business relationships with all the major Turkish commercial banks. Moreover, it engages in export financing and renewable energies. The products include trade financing, structured financing and foreign exchange trading.