Visiting the Turkish Embassy in Prague can be compared to actually travelling to Turkey. As we entered the doors we felt the Turkish hospitality and warm welcome from everyone working for the Ambassador’s office. While waiting in the hall, we had a chance to admire the wall of portraits dedicated to previous Ambassadors to Prague, including the legendary writer Yakup Kadri Karaosmanoğlu who created some of the classics of Turkish literature, during his time in the Czech Republic.
We were interested in meeting H.E. Ambassador Egemen Bağış after following his activities on the Embassy’s social media. One of our close friends – a Turkish citizen – shared the Embassy’s post where Mr. Ambassador was meeting the students who had just arrived in Prague from Turkey. Since then, every day we would see posts of Mr. Ambassador meeting students and entrepreneurs from Turkey, Turkish sportsmen visiting the Czech Republic, prominent figures and other diplomats, and of course, the Czech citizens who work hard to develop Czech-Turkish relations. We were wondering if we had ever known anyone who would keep his or her doors as wide open to their citizens as does Ambassador Bağış. It seemed to us that he and his office were always open to the ideas Turkish citizens would come to exchange, and that his office was there for all the citizens who needed advice. Any day. Oftentimes, Embassies appear isolated, but not the Turkish Embassy in Prague.
When we finally met H.E. Ambassador Egemen Bağış, we received a fatherly welcome and a cup of Turkish tea to make us comfortable. We at SeasonAbroad have a special bond with Turkey. Two of us grew up surrounded by the Turkish culture of amazing food, warmth, hospitality, belief of maintaining ties and care for your family, relatives, neighbours and elders. Two of us have families and friends residing in Turkey. Two of us can count to ten in Turkish. It felt that we were really tracing back to where we came from.
Ambassador Egemen Bağış did not have a typical diplomatic career. Before being posted as Turkish Ambassador to the Czech Republic, he was the Minister of European Union Affairs and the Chief Negotiator, a Chief Foreign Policy Advisor, a member of Parliament representing Istanbul, and also a professor at the Istanbul Aydin University. Both Mr. Ambassador and his wife Beyhan N. Bağış, who is the founder of the amazing Anatoli brand, moved to Prague in November 2019 with their two children.
When we asked H.E. Egemen Bağış if becoming an Ambassador was quite a change for him, he swiftly answered that he “loved being an Ambassador” and that “it was an honour to represent his nation and be an image of Turkey in a friendly country such as the Czech Republic”.
“Frankly, when President Erdoğan asked me to become the Ambassador to Prague, I was shocked,” – he added.
“As you have seen in my bio, I was in the parliament for 15 years, I was a Minister for five years. Then I left politics, and I was teaching at a university, and I was giving consultancy to multinational companies. At the time President Erdoğan asked to see me and he said “I need you back”. He added that he wanted me to become Turkey’s Ambassador to Prague. I asked “Why me?” and “Why Prague?”. And he reminded me of the press conference in Prague in 2013 when both Turkey and the Czech Republic declared that they had a goal to increase bilateral trade from $3.5 billion a year to $5 billion a year. It had been six years and it was still at $3.5 billion. So, I came here with a specific task to reach the goal and increase bilateral trade between Turkey and the Czech Republic, so new targets can be set. My family and I arrived in November 2019 and by December 2019 I already met with President Miloš Zeman to present my case.”
One would think that the pandemic would slow things down, if not prevent things from happening, but no; a lot has been achieved. In the words of Mr. Ambassador himself: “every crisis is also an opportunity to change things for the better and to push initiatives and ideas forward.” During last year, PPF Group’s Škoda Transportations acquired shares and became the managing partner of TEMSA – a Turkish bus manufacturing company. “This deal that we were working on, came through. It had created jobs and impacted the economies of both of our countries. This makes me really happy and gives me satisfaction.”
When asked about his devotion to bringing opportunities of best education to Turkish youth, Mr. Ambassador told us that “education will never go to waste”. “I believe education is the best investment you can give to the next generation. No matter what happens in the world, knowledge and information is more and more important. There are many good educational institutions here in the Czech Republic, the cost of living is also lower in comparison to other European countries. There are many students in Turkey who cannot enter domestic universities because we have limited capacity, and universities can only enrol a certain number of people. The Czech Republic is one of the most preferred countries for Turkish students, when it comes to exchange programs. I must admit that although we currently have partnerships in the field of education, there still is much more considerable potential in our respective countries for mutually beneficial cooperation.”
But what we were mostly astonished by is that the Ambassador has been meeting every Turkish citizen, who has expressed a wish to see him. “Any Turkish citizen, either residing in the Czech Republic or visiting the country, if they ask for an appointment, they get one. No exceptions,” added the Ambassador.
The Ambassador told us a touching story of a young Turkish lady who was getting married to a Czech citizen, and due to the pandemic could not have her family join her. “She brought a wedding invitation and asked if I could attend.” – Added the Ambassador. “I said, yes, sure. She was so proud that the Ambassador of her country was there and she was not alone.” “I have students calling me for advice. I feel proud that they see me as a father figure.”
Towards the end of our meeting, we were feeling that the Ambassador must have a real soul for volunteering, lobbying and caring not only for his nation but also reinforcing and strengthening the bond between the nations of Turkey and the Czech Republic.
The Ambassador’s office expresses utmost care to support citizens that reside in the Czech Republic, and the ones who have just recently arrived.
While fulfilling such an honourable responsibility, Mr. Ambassador, his family and his staff work tirelessly to touch and change the lives of both Czechs and Turks, and for that we are immensely grateful.
We left this meeting, fully inspired by Mr. Ambassador’s dedication to changing and moving the lives of people.
We would like to wholeheartedly thank H.E. Ambassador Egemen Bağış once again for all the amazing things he does to strengthen the ties between the Czech Republic and Turkey, and most importantly for all his help and support to the people. Such care for your citizens is remarkable.
Following our first meeting with H.E. Ambassador Egemen Bağış at the Turkish Embassy in Prague, we were invited to the Ambassador’s Residence where we received the warmest welcome from Mr. Ambassador and Mrs. Beyhan N. Bağış.