Czech-Turkish relations through the eyes of an immigrant

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On Thursday, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Erdogan, embarked upon a state visit to the Czech Republic, which will last two days. On the programme are meetings with his Czech counterpart Mirek Topolanek, and the nation’s president, Vaclav Klaus. While the heads of state and government are expected to discuss Turkey’s bid to join the EU, and Czech-Turkish trade relations, Radio Prague asked a member of the Turkish community here in the city for his views on these subjects, and how they affect his everyday life. Tayfur Kirma came to Prague in 1995, and now owns a building company and a Turkish restaurant. He explains what made him move to the city:

“When I graduated from university - I gained a degree in diplomacy in Ankara - I went to England to continue in higher education. So I went to Bolton, and it was there that I met my wife, Paula Kirmova. We went out for about three years over there, and then I graduated from university there.”

“And so then I came here, and I saw that the Czech Republic, it was a new country just after the revolution. And there was plenty of opportunity here. I admired the Czech people, how they were living here. The lifestyle is so quiet, the people – how they drive, how they treat each other. For me it was so quiet. When I compare it to Turkey, oh god! I mean, Turkey is really very dangerous in comparison. If you are not Turkish, it is really very hard to understand the Oriental thinking and mentality. It is totally different.”

How do you think Czechs feel about Turkey joining the European Union?

“Actually, there is really very good cooperation between Turkey and the Czech Republic. There are many energy plants in Turkey which use Czech equipment. And also, until when I was 17, there was this motorbike in Turkey, it’s called the ‘Java’ but in Turkey we pronounce it ‘zhava’ – I thought it was Turkish – it is so common.”

“Or this Skoda Octavia, I thought that was Turkish too, it is so familiar in Turkey. So, when I came here I saw that this Czech-Turkish relationship, and I saw that it goes back about 80 years now. So, I think the Czech government are supporting Turkey’s bid to become a full member of the European Union.”

Having lived in Britain and then the Czech Republic, what would you say the best thing about living in Britain is, as opposed to the Czech Republic, and the best thing about living in the Czech Republic as opposed to living in Britain?

“Britain is more established, and everything is in its place. But there is less opportunity, opportunity to do business, there. Because everything is already grasped. But in the Czech Republic it is different, here there is more opportunity. But the living standards, I think they are more or less the same in both countries. There are no problems at all in England or the Czech Republic – you can go anywhere on your own.”

”My wife, she is Czech, my daughters, they are Czech. But I am not accepting Czech citizenship myself, because that would mean losing my Turkish passport and my Turkish citizenship. So for that reason I won’t accept it. I am very proud of being Turkish, and living in the Czech Republic.”