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Those with a Strategy for Change Win!

Date: 1.01.2011


In the new world order, the leaders, who are interested in creating change, who make the best use of technology and information, support effective management in politics, economics, public and private enterprises, and value the involvement of public in the political process; as well as the countries governed by them, will become prominent.



The Leaders of Change Summit, organized in Istanbul, the city bridging Asia and Europe, was held with the participation of around 3 thousand high profile participants, more than 100 Turkish and foreign speakers, and 300 press members.

In March 2011, Istanbul hosted the “Leaders of Change Summit”, bringing together prominent figures of the world of economics, politics and science from 22 countries, which is regarded as the “Davos of Turkey”. The opening speech of the summit, which aims to transform Istanbul into a center where global policies are shaped, was delivered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking at the Summit held with broad participation, Erdogan said “With its existing regime, its democracy experience, the democratic standards it has achieved and its will managing the change, Turkey has successfully manifested to the entire world that Islam and democracy may exist side by side” and emphasized the importance of Turkey as a model country.

At the “Leaders of Change Summit”, held with the participation of around 3 thousand high profile participants, more than 100 Turkish and foreign speakers, and 300 press members; prominent figures of the world discussed the new world order, change and leadership. Turkish businessman Dr. Zeynel Abidin Erdem, who delivered a speech at the same Summit, also acted as the moderator of the conference titled “Regional Security and Global Energy.”

During our private interview with Erdem Holding Board Chairman Dr. Zeynel Abidin Erdem after the Leaders of Change Summit, which is expected to become an alternative for Davos, Erdem told us about the objectives of the summit, which is organized in Istanbul with a high level of participation. Pointing that Turkey, besides its strong position as a regional power, is forging ahead to become a global actor, Erdem stressed the importance of change in the new world order, and added that, “In the new world order, those, who take into account and recognize change, will win.”

During our interview, we have posed many other questions to Erdem, who is among the leading businessmen of Turkey known in the international field; ranging from the new world order to change, Turkey’s EU membership to its relations with USA. Below you may find the answers of Erdem Holding Board Chairman Dr. Zeynel Abidin Erdem to these questions, as well as the details of this private interview:

The “Leaders of Change Summit” organized in Istanbul has been characterized as the Davos of Turkey. How do you evaluate this interpretation? Is it exaggerated or is it an approach that will shed a light on the near future?

The aim of Leaders of Change Summit was to transform Istanbul into a center where global policies are shaped. This formation, promising a new spirit for world leaders, has in fact arose the feeling that it would compete with Davos, with its first summit that brought together prominent figures of the world. During the period of March 14-15, Istanbul was just like Switzerland. At the Summit, the leading figures of the world of economics, politics and science coming from 22 countries have discussed world policies. In a sense, participants of the Leaders of Change Summit focused on the strategies for change that are required for shaping the future. At 21 separate sessions organized in scope of the forum followed by around 3 thousand spectators, many diverse subjects ranging from the global economy to Middle East conflict, the dialogue between religions to the current international crisis, have been discussed by competent figures. These sessions, where the acknowledged experts in their field addressed the participants, reminded us of Davos summits. The stage design, seating plan, addressing of global matters, have all arose the feeling that Leaders of Change Summit may well be an alternative for Davos.

Do you think that the summit held in Istanbul will be repeated each year? Which advantages will these kind of summits bring to Turkey, in economic, political, cultural and social terms?

The summit aims to bring together world leaders in Turkey each year in order to give voice to diverse opinions on global and regional cooperation, and to evaluate the future prospects of the world. We support the transformation of this organization into an effective and permanent platform. I believe that it is of great importance for the promotion of Turkey in every field.

What does it mean for Turkey to be host for multinational meetings? How does the world view these kind of meetings?

This organization aimed to draw the attention of the world towards Turkey once more. The aim of the evaluations made in regional and global scale, was to call attention to the plans and projections about the future. The reflections of the summit in press demonstrated that these aims have been achieved.

What would you say about the relation between the meetings hosted by Turkey and its strengthening in economic and political terms?

Being among the most important cities of the world during the entire history with its unique geographical status, Istanbul is one of the leading centers of change, reminiscence, culture and politics. I think that it is an inherent right of this city and Turkey to host this kind of an organization.

The leaders of change, politicians, spiritual leaders, global actors of economy, academicians and bureaucrats, all came together in Istanbul. So, what was the most important message desired to be delivered from Istanbul to the world, and which subjects came to the forefront at the end of the meeting?


How do you find Turkey in terms of leadership, under the initiative of the Government?The global circles in the world do not favor the success of others; they plan for their failure. However, the arguments they used in order to impair the global status of Turkey in the future, have significantly decreased. Now, they have less chance to make use of Alewi-Sunni issue or the card of military coup. They now have a single card on hand: PKK issue. We must immediately address the concerns of our Kurdish citizens with regard to the future, through democratic initiatives. We must act fast in order to exclude PKK, which they use as a pieceworker, from the scope of Kurdish issue. They prepare to use this card both for the coming elections and after the elections. If required attention is given to these sensitive issues, Turkey, outperforming its role as a regional power, will soon proceed as a global actor.

What would you like to say about change in particular for Turkey, and in general for the entire world?

A new world order is being established and Turkey is taking its place in this new order. With its secular-democratic structure, Turkey is an important civilization and plays a major role. In the new world order, Turkey is building alliances between countries with joint cultural and strategic objectives. It is not sufficient to be a regional power. A regional position would not be enough for Turkey. The ground is slippery, you may slip, they make you slip. You must have global objectives. We must use the potential of Turkey, not only in one region but by opening to the continents. Our country is now walking on a straight road in political, social and economic terms. We became successful in individual development; our development rates and exports are quite fine. Now, the next step for Turkey must be to catch up with global development.

At the conference titled “Regional Security and Global Energy” held on March 15 and moderated by me, Iraqi Vice President Tarık Hasimi gave very positive messages, and said “The Leaders of Change Summit has a very good timing, since the world is currently going under a process of major change and development. I would like to thank to all the organizers”. This statement had a meaning, which summarized the entire conference. All the speakers stated their opinions about the recent events in the Middle East, and discussed the possible ways of resolving this issue.

Mr. Tarık Hasimi noted that armed conflicts that arise with the aim of accessing and using energy resources is the most dangerous problem of all, and pointed that the world is threatened both by energy insecurity and by increasing competition. Hasimi said, “In fact, many of us witnessed big wars and spill of blood for the control of energy resources. From now on, we must invest in peace and stability. Regional security is crucial for enabling the continuity of uninterrupted energy flow. The issue of energy generation must be kept away from politics, and politicians must stay away from this field. In this sense, Turkey has always been a reliable country, and has a quite balanced approach with regard to energy corridors.”

45th Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, who is also Nobel Peace Prize winner thanks to his studies aiming to raise awareness of the world in addressing climate change, delivered a speech on March 14, titled “Strategies for Environment and Economy in the 21st Century”, and at the end of his speech, he noted that Turkey progressed impressively in addressing climate change and gave big hopes to the entire world. The final speaker of the Summit was another Nobel Peace Prize winner, Kofi Annan, who served as the 7th Secretary General of United Nations. At the Summit, Annan delivered the message that, “Turkey plays an important role in global problems. More importantly, it is a secular country. Turkey is considered as a model for Egypt and Tunisia. It has an important role in economics.”



How do you view the relations between USA and Turkey?

We do not have a bad history with USA. There will be many people, who try to damage the relations between Turkey and USA, and Turkey must apply a strategic approach towards these people. We must evaluate our status as a regional power and our relations with global actos, from the geo-strategic position of Turkey. We are not alone in the world, and playing big has different troubles associated with it. We have to maintain the partnership balance with the USA. There will be various dynamics in USA as well, such as the diverse positions of their president and his team; however in the future, the balance in Turkish-USA relations will provide solutions for many issues in Middle East and Near East. USA may protect Israel, and adjust its policies in this frame. This should not be of much interest for Turkey. In the new world order, USA would not sever its relations with Turkey, for the sake of Israel. Turkey is doing what it is ought to do against Israel. The attitude of Prime Minister Erdogan is quite clear and right. Israel is confined to loneliness due to the things it did. Turkey and Israel must be evaluated separately from each other. We have to be aware of the games that Israel is playing, and play accordingly. Today, the policy implemented by Turkey is closely monitored in USA. They are also uncomfortable with the existing government of Israel. Turkey will not take its place in the new world order, by looking at Israel. It will take its place by being the tenth largest economy of the world and with its geo-strategic position. As long as we manage to take PKK card from the hands of global circles.



How do you evaluate the process of EU membership and the opinions viewing Turkey as turning its face to its own geography? Would it shine the star of Turkey, or imply a shear of axis?

In the new world order, we may specify the actors of the future as USA, China, Russia and European Union. EU is a power, which cannot be underestimated. Especially Germany may not be left aside, in any case. Even if we do not believe that they would provide us access to EU, we have to exhibit our best efforts, and continue and complete the reforms for the sake of our own country. Having a say in the Middle East must not be viewed as a shear of axis. Such an approach may only be the expression of those, who are afraid about the brightness of the star of Turkey.

How do you view the current status of relations with the EU?

The visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which was far from state discipline, was confronted with repulsion by Turkish public. In Turkey, the support for EU fell from 78 percent to 28 percent. If those, who are patronising EU, are playing games, we must also play a counter-game. It seems already evident that EU will not provide access to Turkey. For us, the important thing is human rights and freedoms, as well as democracy. We are proceeding on this way. We do not need EU, however they will; but at that time EU will already be separated, and a Europe, divided in three, will emerge. The intrigues of UK aimed to collapse the Ottoman Empire, the games played by Tsarist Russia and France, are still in our memories. We must not forget by whom Turkey was invaded, and how we rewrote our destiny with the war of Independence. It must never be forgotten how many states emerged out of Ottoman Empire, and how the boundaries were drawn in Middle East and Balkans. It is not wrong to think that Europe has never given up the historical animosities in order to take the revenge of those days.

Based on the saying that 'Leaders are born, not made” I would like to ask who is the leader in the new world order and which characteristics do you think that the leader must have?

In the new leadership approach, the managers, who are interested in creating change, make the best use of technology and information, support effective management in politics, economics, public and private enterprises and who value the involvement of public in political processes, are called as leaders. As a classical way to put it, the only thing that does not change is the change itself. In the new world order, those, who take into account and recognize change, will win. However, in any case, the best leader is the one who loves his/her country the most.

You have found the opportunity to meet many leaders both in Turkey and the world. Who do you think is the best leader? Do you have any memories with the leaders that you would like to share with us?

Today, when I look at the recent developments in Libya and Egypt, I recognize once more that Atatürk was the best leader in the entire history and that Turkey is the luckiest country of all. On the other hand, deceased Turgut Ozal was the first leader, who brought the word “change” to the agenda of Turkey. While we were living as a country closed to the world, we suddenly became a modernized country engaged in intercontinental trade. All the reforms in economic, political, cultural and social fields started during the period of Turgut Ozal. Those, who do not know about the situation in Turkey 28 years ago, may think that we arrived at this point easily. In year 1987, when Mr. Ozal had an operation in Houston, we took a taxi from the airport, but we did not know exactly which hospital to go. I cannot forget how surprised I was, when the taxi driver, hearing that we speak Turkish, said “The prime minister of your country is here, President Bush came to visit him.” He had taken us right to the door of the hospital, without requesting any directions. I have never forgotten how powerful the human relations of Mr. Ozal was as a leader.

I had the opportunity to meet President Clinton, both during the term of his office, and at the time when I invited him to deliver a conference in Istanbul in year 2001. During the office term of President Clinton, USA has lived its brightest period in the economic sense. In those years, I had paid a 15-day visit to USA. During that time, all the people we met, coming from various states from the north to the south, was speaking of him with love and praise. I was really astonished. American public was so happy.


Besides acting as a physical bridge, what is the importance of Turkey in economic, cultural and social terms? How do you view the position and course of Turkey in becoming a regional power and global actor?

Turkey faced the major economic crisis of its history 2 years ago. While the entire world was expecting large scale social disorders after this crisis, we saw that Turkish people stood still thanks to their belief, traditions and eagerness to work. Our government is young, dynamic and open to new ideas, and carries out studies that quickly respond to the needs of Turkish public. With this confidence and determination, we know very well that there are no obstacles that we cannot overcome.

Since year 1969, I am in close contact with leading political figures. Therefore, I must note that the dynamics of change must be emphasized. In Turkey, Turgut Ozal initiated the change and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues. Change and transformation must be continuous. The world conjuncture is promising welfare for Turkish public. After the elections, we can resolve certain gangrened matters, in unity and solidarity and by mutual understanding. Economic development would solve the problems, and when sensitive problems are solved, economic development would achieve a high pace. I believe that we are close to the point of solving the equation.

When you compare the political and business leaders in Turkey and abroad, what are the positive and negative characteristics that you observe?

Once more, I have to mention that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish businessmen are quite successful and powerful when considered the political and economic stability exhibited by Turkey after the global economic crisis. During our visits to Europe, I recognize that this opinion is true and this is what I am really proud of.

As one of the prominent businessmen of Turkey, who leads others with his achievements, which message would you like to give to young businessmen who are newly growing?

We must always remember that; success is no coincidence. It all starts with being determined, working hard and putting forth efforts. In commercial life, profit and loss are brothers. They would never fall apart. If you start each business only for making profit, you will give up quickly. Never target unmerited gains; think broad and long-term. Do not forget that education and information is the utmost power; do not forget your country, do not detach from your family and your roots; get strength from them. Remember; one, who cannot protect his flag and land, may not protect his family either. Always maintain the dynamics of your country and your unity. Crown your revenue; make donations. Fulfill the tasks imposed on you by state, and always pay your taxes. Your state may only develop and live with your favor. Always act with respect, honesty and tolerance towards people, regardless of their religion or language. The prayers of your family and your genuine efforts will make you as successful as we are.


Erdem Holding Board Chairman and Honorary Consul of Spain for Marmara Region, Dr. Zeynel Abidin Erdem, was born in Mardin in year 1944. Having graduated from Chemistry Faculty of Yıldız University in 1970, Erdem completed his doctorate at the Faculty of Business Administration of Istanbul University. Beginning his career as a businessman in year 1965, Dr. Erdem still acts as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of:


  • Erdem Holding A.Ş.
  • Gen-PaTelekomünikasyon ve İletişim Hizmetleri San.Tic.A.S. 
  • Er-Tel Erdem Telekomünikasyon Elektronik ve Bilgi İşlem San.Tic.A.S.
  • Erdem Sigorta Aracılık Hizmetleri Ltd.Şti. 
  • Erdem Golf İşletmecilik Turizm ve Tic. A.S. 
  • Anadolu - Asya - Avrupa Dış Ticaret Uluslar arası Nakliyat Turizm inş. San.VePaz. Ltd.Sti 
  • Ermeks-Er Tekstil Endüstri Pazarlama ve Dış Ticaret A.Ş. 
    Erdem is married and has two children.


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