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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Friday, December 17, 2004

Better off out

It is rare to read a well informed article by a Turk over the subject of EU membership. Pro EU Turks talk of a land flowing with milk and honey, an end to all their countries ills. The Anti side tends to be the very negative type of nationalist, whose reasons for not joining are very isolationist in their approach. I was therefore pleased to read a more thoughtful piece in the FT by Hasan Unal a professor at the department of international relations from Bilkent University. Highlights include:
The chattering classes, mainly in Istanbul, have presented the EU as the answer to all ills. For them, Europe is not an economic matter but a political statement about their identity. Turks have this complex about Europeans looking down on them. They somehow feel that EU membership would correct that.
The current condescending attitude of certain member countries toward some of the poorer members shows this belief for the falsehood that it is.
They have also misled the Turkish masses about what they can expect. Look at Greece, they say: there is not much work there, but life is wonderful because of the goods pouring from the German cornucopia.
Most people really think that all there is to solving the economy's ills is to join the EU. Money will poor in and everyone will be happy.
The reality is that the Turks are in for a bit of a nightmare - a decade of acrimonious, protracted negotiations in advance of which they will have to make enormous concessions, including some that could easily excite the very nationalist-Islamist backlash that Turkey's pro-Europeans seek to forestall by opting for EU membership.
The cure could prove worse than the disease.
After all, to a developing country such as Turkey what use are expensive EU regulations that would make its products less competitive in world markets? Turkey could only benefit from the transformation of the existing customs union with the EU into a free-trade agreement, which would allow us to make our own third-country trade pacts.
Economic development has to be the number one priority for a poor country like Turkey. If the brightest and best managers in the most professional companies in the country are spending all of their time and effort on meeting new regulations, the chances for development are limited. Even if EU cash is available, welfare payments are no substitute for a job.
Another important point is that, if all parties had a clear view of Turkey's economic and political future, foreign investment would at last flow. …. Enormous opportunities would open up if only both sides would stop baying at the moon.
Most people are astounded when they visit Istanbul for the first time and learn a little about the economy. The potential is enormous. The misguided obsession with EU membership has put more important economic issues on the back burner.
The trouble is that Turkey's all-or-nothing policy and the Europeans' confused response could poison the whole relationship. An EU-Turkey crisis could not fail to harm the Turkish economy, and would perhaps even upset the present political stability. But if that did happen, I suppose the chattering classes in Istanbul would be able to salve their consciences by explaining to the unemployed and the hungry that Turkey's democracy, Turkey's human rights, Turkey's marriage laws and Turkey's rights for minorities were at last fully in line with the standards laid down by Brussels.
As important as some of these changes are, you cannot eat democratic reforms and a mass of poor disgruntled people can soon force the undoing of many of these and more. Lets hope we don’t see it happen.

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