Rector Akbulut, dear participants of this seminar I was working as a Consul General of Finland in Los Angeles six years ago. These were the golden years for Finland because we were leading the wireless world for a couple of years and Finland became to be one of the most high tech countries in the world.
At that time United States was two years behind the wireless development and we were the darling of the American press, Red Herring and Wired magazines, to mention only a few.
After our difficult history, the long years of wars, and serious depression early nineties Finland was able to perform this high tech miracle. In one decade Finland became the most ICT-specialized economy in the world. Three times Finland was ranked number one in the World Economic Forum's competitiveness index. Finland has also ranked highest in the OECD's PISA studies of learning skills and education
We had some assets such as Nokia and a cluster of other high tech companies, we also had people such as Linus Thorvalds, developer of Linux system and other prominent figures. We also had a change and reform friendly government and a society which was ready to jump into it and grasp the challenge.
This miracle was a combination of several factors and our speakers from Finland will go more in detail in that process. We thought that our experience might be of interest to Turkey and therefore we discussed with rector Akbulut and other METU experts of the idea of getting Turkish and Finnish experts together to discuss of these topics.
The important question in this conference is "would there be applicable lessons to Turkey on the basis of our experience". If we have enough going on on the basis of the experience this conference I would strongly recommend to do follow-up in near future. We could work together in order to develop something new, innovative and interesting.
Turkey is in the middle of an important transition, this is a country that is changing rapidly both politically and economically to become a modern and innovative country in a globalized world. This is not possible without paying special attention to the knowledge society and knowledge economy. Much work has already been done. Especially Turkish e-government initiative is very important in this respect
The recovery of the Turkish economy after the 2001 crises is impressive. Turkey has become to be a very interesting partner for foreign companies.
In Finland, we see Turkey as a very attractive partner and a market. In fact, in a quite recent assessment by the Finnish government on markets outside of the European Union, Turkey was identified as one of the key target markets. This has increased the focus on Turkey.
The trade between Finland and Turkey is increasing rapidly. Last year the total trade volume was one billion euros. This year we will do even better.
Finland has the Presidency of the European union for six months. One of the most important priorities of our EU Presidency is to increase the European competitiveness and innovation.
Turkey started EU-accession process a year ago. First chapter in the accession process was openend and temporarily closed in June and it was research and development. Turkey's EU accession process is especially important for the Turkish economy and for the foreign investments. These weeks are very important for the Turkish EU accession process.
Finland has been supporting Turkey's EU path all long. In this process we have emphasized that Turkey and all the other applicant countries have to fulfil the famous Copenhagen criteria.
The theme of this conference is based on the study of the World Bank called "Finland as a Knowledge Economy - Elements of Success and Lessons Learned". I am very pleased that two editors of this excellent study, Professor Jorma Routti and Research Director Pekka Ylä-Anttila from the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) are among the Finnish specialists in the conference.
I am also delighted that Professor Pekka Himanen of the University of Art and Design who is a Finnish Information Age philosopher and author of various critically acclaimed books can be with us in this Conference. The fourth Finnish guest participating in the workshops is Mr. Jussi Lystimäki a Partner of Prisma Research.
This conference is sponsored by Nokia Communications, Nokia Networks, TeliaSonera, TeliaSonera Finland, Havelsan and Ankara Hilton SA. I would like to thank these companies for their contribution. Without their help we would not have been able to organize this conference.
Last but not least, I would like to thank METU - who is celebrating its 50th anniversary - for giving the premises for this conference. I would also like to thank the excellent work and support from METU team. I would especially like to thank Rektör Ural Akbulut, Mrs. Yarman Vural, Professor Ayata, Ms. Baykal, Mr. Erdil, Mrs. Toppare, Ms. Doğangün and Ms. Duman for their fantastic and efficient work and their dedication to this event. Special thanks for my own team as well Veli-Pekka Kaivola, Noora Valkonen and Sibel Yesilmen
I wish you all an interesting two days with the Finnish and Turkish specialists.