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News 24 Jan 17

Turkey Scraps Diploma Deal With Macedonia

Turkey has scrapped a bilateral diploma acceptance deal with Macedonia after the authorities in Skopje failed to close schools and organisations suspected of links to alleged coup plotter Fethullah Gulen.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Turks studying in Macedonia fear the consequences of Ankara scrapping the diploma deal. Photo: Brigitte Djajasasmita/Flickr

Several thousand Turks studying in Macedonia at both private and in state-run universities face a dilemma after it was announced at the weekend that Ankara had abandoned a bilateral deal on the mutual acceptance of university diplomas.

Mehmet Ali Tekin, a second-year mechanical engineering student at Skopje's state-run university, said he now feared he will not be able to work in Turkey after graduating.

“We are living in suspense. We are waiting for someone to explain to us what this means. All we know is what we have heard from the news but I seriously fear my diploma will now be worthless in Turkey,” Telkin told BIRN.

Turkish media over the weekend said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had already signed the unilateral decision on scrapping of the diploma deal reached in 1998. The decision comes into force on February 11.

Macedonian authorities have tried to calm students' fears by saying that nullification of the deal with Turkey will not necessarily hurt their prospects.

Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry said it would only change the legal procedures, insisting that both countries would still abide by the Lisbon Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region.

This stipulates that “degrees and periods of study must be recognized unless substantial differences can be proved” between two countries' educational programs.

BIRN was unable to reach the Macedonian Education Ministry for comment on Monday.

Despite the reassurances, some Macedonian media outlets have reported that Turkish students are already starting to leave Macedonia.

The daily Vest newspaper wrote on Sunday that some 200 students enrolled at the state-run university in Stip have already started to leave.

“Only those who still believe this decision will be revoked have stayed,” Stojan Gligorov, a students' landlord from Stip, told Vest. 

“I had three students studying medicine and Macedonian language. Two have already told me that they are leaving because the scholarships and the other subsidies they got from Turkey will be cut.”

Turkey’s decision comes after Macedonia last year failed to meet Turkeys demand to close Turkish private schools and other organizations allegedly linked to Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen’s Hizmet movement. Ankara alleges it is a terrorist organization that was behind the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July.

Last July, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency published a list of schools and companies in Macedonia that are allegedly linked to Gulen, who lives in the US.

The agency listed the Jahja Kemal private elementary and high schools that operate in five Macedonian cities, including Skopje, as well as several other companies dealing with tourism, trade, transport and healthcare. Jahja Kemal starkly denied having financial links Gulen.

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