TALK OVER TEA

Turkey 2014 | EXECUTIVE GUIDE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mehmet Köksal, Partner & Regional Head of Köksal Attorney Partnership, on catering to foreign investors in a language they understand and Turkey's legal environment.

Mehmet Köksal
BIOGRAPHY
Mehmet Köksal is a Senior Partner and Founding Member of Köksal, which was established in 1996. His experience encompasses a wide range of commercial matters including corporate and contract law in areas such as agency agreements, distribution agreements, commercial contracts, joint ventures, partnership cases, sale of goods, insurance, reinsurance cases, construction law, company law, and finance. He is a member of the IBA, the current President of the Court of Arbitration (AHK) Istanbul, and National President of the Association of German Lawyers Association (VDA). He attended Ankara University to study Law and has a PhD in Law from Konstanz University in Germany.

How does Köksal cater to foreign clients?

We created our firm specifically for foreign investors, for whom there are multiple conditions to consider when coming to Turkey. More accurately, they face certain obstacles to overcome before they can invest here. The most important of these is finding a quality consulting service. And then there is the language issue. Although most foreign investors conduct their business negotiations and complete their agreements in English, they prefer their own language when it comes to speaking with advisors. Once they are past this first obstacle, they face the problem of finding tax and accounting advisors who speak their language. Investors locate them either through advisors in their home country, through chambers of commerce, or their consulate. It is advantageous if the consultant here also has offices in their country. Either way, it is important for the consultation office to have a solid grasp of foreign languages, which is our specialty. We have an office in Munich, and are in the process of opening one in Berlin. In this manner, German investors can easily access us in their own country, providing an extra level of confidence. A second advantage, in addition to our attorneys being fluent in a foreign language, is that we also place great importance on their being highly educated; most hold Master's degrees. We also support those who pursue their Master's and PhDs while working. Our third advantage is that we provide accounting services and advice, enabling the synchronization of their accounting systems with accounting systems here. We can also act as interim management for a limited period.

How would you characterize the current regulatory or legal environment for foreign investors in Turkey?

The laws of Turkey are modern laws adapted from other countries. For example, our trade, business, and criminal laws are practically a translation of German laws. When speaking to foreign investors, I give this example, which they like very much; our traffic laws are based on those of Germany, at least on paper. Our laws are fine, and all are modern; however, their implementation can be stressful. We take the traffic laws from Germany, but we apply the traffic patterns of Italy. Meanwhile, we have regulations specifically devised for FDI. Turkey has also signed international agreements, which protects foreign investors. Those familiar with Turkish culture and business practices should not anticipate any issues. Köksal Attorney Partnership is a bridge between foreign investors and Turkey. In general, Turkey's rules of law are in accordance with those of the EU. Investors are often concerned about, or have questions in reference to, legal security. For example, the Title and Trade Registers are very secure.

What advice would you give to a foreign investor considering investing in Turkey?

First, if they want to work with a Turkish partner, rather than talking business at their first meeting, they should instead have tea. In addition, they should not leave their tea half finished; they should absolutely finish the entire cup. This is more important than it may seem. They should be aware that the results of any discussion not made in the presence of the owner of the company are subject to change. Therefore, there is no need to put anything in writing at the first meeting. If the meetings reach the high-level decision makers, this is an indication that the Turkish partner is serious. From that point on, you can begin talking business. My second recommendation is that all written agreements be completed in both languages. For example, if one party speaks Turkish and the other German, the agreement contract should not be in English. Agreements should always be in their native language. Taking into consideration that Anglo-Saxon law and European law differs, they identify the differences in Anglo-Saxon terms. Turkey is a wide market. There is no doubt that the economy will continue to improve. This is not related to the elections. If investors are careful about these situations, they should not have any issues at the outset. Investors also need to be wary of using tax and legal advisors that are acquainted with the general management of the Turkish firms with whom they are doing business. This way there will be no conflicts.