Mon, 25 Jul 2016
This morning, on my way to work in London, I sat across from a couple of 20 something year olds on the train and was totally incapable of shutting out the conversation. The topic was Turkey. What was prevalent and made me chuckle is the emphatic statement by one of the ladies that Turkey is more exciting than the series Game of Thrones. A declaration which was received by her companion as enthusiastically as it was imparted. Without intending to I had to give the obligatory sideways glance. Who were these two young and articulate ladies. It dawned on me then that Turkey has never been more talked about and debated than ever before now. What was even more fascinating was the realisation that Game of Thrones has at last found it's nemesis.
For over a decade Turkey has been one of the most inspiring rising stars of the globe. A story of rags to riches, peppered with the mysteries of a culture borne out of an emerging market and an Ottoman heritage. The speed of economic growth leaves developed countries gasping for breath and wondering if they are genuinely witnessing the phenomenon of such fast pace growth, the rising athletes of economy.
What has contributed to the remarkable rise has undoubtedly been the sheer enthusiasm and capabilities of its young task force which was enabled and inspired by a political administration made of resilience, the head and President of which is without a shadow of doubt, still the maker of the phenomenon.
Just under 2,000 miles away from Turkey in a leafy country village (yes topped with a Thatched roof) lives a beautiful and elegant English 80 something year old lady for whom pearls and the occasional visit to Royal Ascot is a staple. She was on the phone to her equally aged and no less elegant sister in the next village. It was her intrigued daughter who imparted the story to me. She watched her usually quiet and reserved mother, whose life revolves around afternoon tea parties, with utter defiance shouting at her sister down the phone. What had transpired is that her sister had an opinion on Turkey. It did not coincide with hers. She was adamant that her sister neither understood the nation and its people nor the President and all he stood for. She has never been to Turkey. But her support was with remarkable passion, almost akin to the hot blood of Turkey itself.
Similar to my train moment, my friend was incapable of shutting out the fascinating conversation she was hearing. What was again clear was how Turkey had gripped a nation, far far away.
On Friday, a week ago, pandemonium gripped many households...of Britain. Turkey was in the throws of an attempted coup. Within hours the people of Turkey took to the streets, risking their lives to show solidarity in their support of democracy. People up and down Britain, glued to their TV's, felt a sudden protectiveness of Turkey's democracy. All political parties of Turkey united and side by side condemn the foolhardy attempts of the ill organised military few. As the world rallied to watch the events unfold, calls started to hit my phone. By Saturday morning my phone went wild. The calls, messages and emails continued for days as Turkey moved with even greater speed than the rise in its economy to round up the protagonists. With a breathtaking show of strength a state of emergency was declared. Now, if the West will not believe that the brains and commander behind the coup is the self exiled cleric living in suburban U.S. then at least the state of emergency will relax the rules and allow them sufficient powers to show the U.S. what they have known all along and strengthen the call for extradition.
What is loud and clear is that there will be no effect to taking holidays in Turkey, flights are more or less back to normal. There will even be no detrimental effect on businesses investing and continuing to trade as before. In fact, with a purge of the troublemakers, one can argue that the future of Turkey is even stronger and better than before. The sheer size of the thriving economy appears to be proving near impossible to crash.
What has been particularly amazing about this strong country is their ability to remain resilient and bounce back from every single hit levelled at them, time and time again, for the last decade, and continue to grow. Economists fail to explain how. It is precisely as described, a phenomenon. It does not follow the trends expected. In the face of adversity it succeeds. Or perhaps that should read, in the face of what the West perceives as adversity, it succeeds. As for Turkey, they take it in their stride, deal with it, then back to business.
I have been the Chairman of the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry for coming up to 3 years now, facilitating bilateral trade and investment between the UK and Turkey. I like to keep busy, I am also Barrister, Deputy Head of International Law at No5 Chambers dealing with International Arbitrations and geo-political law amongst many other roles I play in the UK and around the world. I also facilitate bilateral trade and investment in other countries.
By far and wide, Turkey has been one of the most extraordinary countries I have had the pleasure in dealing with thus far. What I have is the privilege to understand that what we fear as instability in the UK and, in the West generally, is not perceived as the same in emerging markets such as Turkey. Perhaps I can explain what I mean. If you grow up in a quiet, low crime, suburban town, chances are you will fear the less developed inner city and may feel intimidated by the unknown. If you are raised in a less developed part of an inner city chances are you will find it perfectly normal and will learn to survive, even thrive. It may be no less 'stable' for your norm. Indeed you will be better equipped to deal with outburst of fist fights and the occasional mini riot than you would if you were raised in the 'cotton wool' of, say, Chelsea in London.
Now, picture this, imagine the less developed part of town sits in a strategically geographical hot spot, and you do not. Imagine the less developed part of town acquires a new, tough leader who has the will and enthusiasm to put new structures in place and catapult the standard of living at high speed into a richer economy. You would be forgiven for thinking the characteristics of that leader will have to be tough. You will also be forgiven for wanting to do business with them. It is exciting, it is new and the possibilities are endless. Irrespective of the machinations of politicians trying to gain votes in Brexit by scaremongering the UK population, UK businesses have in fact been privy to the wealth of opportunities in Turkey for years and have been benefiting from an ever developing elegance to the warm culture and ease of business.
Business relations between Turkey and the UK has been of extraordinary proportions and indeed worth £billions for years now. The British only have to check the inside label of clothes that they wear, peer under their car bonnets at the engines, as they pop another nut imported from Turkey into their mouths and take a swig of wines that rival France. Turkey has served the UK well from a business and holiday perspective and continues to do so. From construction to medical services and equipment, to food and textiles, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, plastics, ceramics the list goes on. Unashamedly, some UK medics admit that the UK is simply years behind some of Turkey's medical advancements and technology. It is the UK who can learn from Turkey's advanced computerised courts system which the UK started to implement some years ago only to find that at best their version yielded delays and lost files. The business relationship between the two countries is ever vibrant and strong, perhaps unbreakable. Businesses want to transact irrespective of whatever politics throws their way.
On Friday evening a week ago, the people of Turkey spoke by their actions when they took to the streets in a show of heart rendering solidarity for their freedom and continued democratic rule by the existing Government. Today, a week on, and with a state of emergency now in place for at least 3 months, UK businesses have spoken even louder than politicians scaremongering in the Brexit Referendum, they continue to do business with Turkey and what's more, have no intention of pulling out. Business keeps peace and countries afloat. It is clear that Turkey's success is here to stay. Now watch this space.
This article was written by No5 Barrister Emma Edhem. Emma is the Deputy Head of the International Group at No5 Chambers and the Chairman of the Turkish British Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Click here to view Emma Edhem's profile.