First female president for 127-year-old Turkish-French association

First female president for 127-year-old Turkish-French association

When the French airport operator Aeroports de Paris (ADP) recently bought 38 percent of the shares of TAV Airports Holding, owned by Tepe-Akfen, for 874 million dollars, the president of the executive board of Akfen-TAV, Hamdi Akın made an interesting comment: 

“I view this sale of shares as if I had my eldest daughter married. We did not want to give away our eldest daughter to a complete stranger. Our relationship with the ADP is not new. We knew each other for a while. This new couple (TAV-ADP) will have very beautiful children.” 

Nobody can deny that Akın’s meaningful words have brought a breath of fresh air to Turkish-French relations, which are going through a major crisis in recent months because of the Armenian genocide bill. 

On the other hand, the TAV-ADP marriage is a sign that economic cooperation recognizes no obstacles despite a crisis in bilateral relations. 

Right at this point, I want to mention the Turkish-French Commerce Association (Chambre de Commerce Française en Turquie), which has exerted huge efforts for both Turkish-French economic and political relations to overcome the crisis period with minimum damage. 

This association is celebrating its 127th anniversary. It is older than the British Chamber of Commerce of Turkey, formed in 1887 in Istanbul. It currently has 450 members and some 100 of them are prominent French companies.

Just to name a few, among the French members are L’Oreal, Axa, Lafarge, Carrefour and Total. There are also giants such as BNP Paribas, Groupama, Dexia, Areva, Danone and Schneider.

The association which has a rooted, 127-year-old tradition in Turkish and French relations elected for the first time a female as its president at its general assembly last week. 

She is the head of the Executive Board of Altavia Türkiye, Zeynep Necipoğlu.

Necipoğlu in fact took over the presidency as the vice-president last December when the former president, Turkey Director of Sanofi-Avetis Olivier Guillaume surprisingly left the post. 

Right before the vote on the bill penalizing denial of the Armenian “Genocide” in the French Senate, Necipoğlu took over the presidency at the most troubled period in bilateral relations. She was shuttling between Istanbul and Paris with heads of main Turkish chambers TOBB, İSO and İTO. 

As a matter of fact, also with the contribution of successful lobbying activities of the team of which Necipoğlu is a member, the penalization of the denial of Armenian Genocide bill was rejected at the Constitutional Council. 

Necipoğlu knows very well she has taken on a difficult mission. She drew attention to French elections in our conversation the other day. 

 “After general elections (April 22 and May 6 presidential elections, June 3 and 17 elections for legislative bodies), with the opening of the parliament at the beginning of September, a new initiative related to the Armenian genocide might be put forward from the new government or the new parliament,” she said. 

Necipoğlu reminds us that presidential candidate Nicholas Sarkozy had asked the government to prepare a new bill taking into consideration the decision of the Constitutional Council. 

For my share, I am happy that a woman was elected as president for the Turkish-French Commerce Association after 127 years. Because I believe that a “female president” will have a positive contribution on Turkish-French relations which have had a bumpy and mostly painful course, especially after Sarkozy came to power. 

Besides, Zeynep Necipoğlu, who is the daughter of İsmail Hakkı Batuk, one of the consultants for former President Turgut Özal, knows very well the subtle details of diplomacy just like her father.