The best product of Northern Cyprus
If you ask what is the luckiest day for a journalist, everyone might have a different answer. For me, it is the enormous chance that I am able to meet a president and a prime minister of a country on the same day.
As a group of lucky journalists, we started the day with Prime Minister Hüseyin Özgürgün of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. We were to later have lunch with the president, Mustafa Akıncı.
Hürriyet’s initiative in which a group of journalists meet different cities was thus adapted for the first time to meeting a country.
Özgürgün speaks with a very soft voice. His tone always sounds friendly. While explaining his country to us, he used one sentence that sounded particularly nice: “The best product we can present to foreigners who come to our country is democracy, a sound legal system, and a strong civil society structure.”
“Decisions that the justice system makes sometimes drive me mad, but then I realize that even if I disagree with a ruling, a well-functioning and impartial justice is good for all of us,” he added.
He also noted that nongovernmental organizations sometimes make his job tougher. For example, even the setting up of a taxi stand in front of a hotel sometimes meets huge resistance. “But still we are happy with all the institutions of democracy,” he said.
What about relations with Turkey? “Talks with the Greek side are ongoing. We cannot think of a Northern Cyprus without the mainland. I can say this: We agree with Turkey 100 percent,” he said.
More handsome than Trudeau
While Özgürgün was talking, the Hürriyet team in the hall could not help but start discussing whether he was even more handsome than Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Indeed, the ratio of women was high in the Hürriyet team visiting the island, and many of them thought Özgürgün is indeed more handsome. He is 52 years old but does not look it.
A businessman in Ercan Airport
Emrullah Turanlı, the owner of the Taşyapı construction company, which was the main sponsor of Hürriyet’s “Explore Cyprus” program, has dedicated his career to Northern Cyprus. He has also bought the management rights of Ercan Airport for 25 years, paying 350 million euros and 100 million euros upfront.
Taşyapı is currently building a new terminal building at the airport, which has undergone huge changes. Now, for an airport that was once a cause of great losses for the state, they paid 10 million euros in income tax this year.
Presidential mansion on July 15
We were the guests of North Cypriot President Akıncı for lunch. I last visited the Presidential Mansion in Lefkoşa while late President Rauf Denktaş was still alive.
Back then I had not even noticed it, as there was an archeological museum actually hidden inside the display windows of the main hall. This museum contains authentic bronze and earthen pieces dating back to 2,500 B.C.
Akıncı fits perfectly the definition of “tranquil force,” and won 65 percent of the vote in the last election.
He was outside the capital Lefkoşa on the night of the failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. When he heard that planes were flying and strange things were happening in Turkey, he immediately came to the Presidential Mansion and gathered together his colleagues.
Soon they understood a coup attempt was underway. He immediately went live on the news station NTV and declared that he was against the coup. Within the Turkish military contingent on the island there was no pro-coup activity observed on the night of the coup attempt. It only went into full alert to prevent any possible attempts to take advantage of the situation from the Greek side. Still, 47 people were later suspended from the contingency.
Akıncı is noticeably respectful to his advisors. While talking, he frequently turns to them and says, “Please correct me if I am wrong,” or “This colleague of mine does not agree, but…”
I have to admit, this is a political manner I have missed very much. Perhaps the island is teaching democracy to the mainland.