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Eurosceptic Bloggers

Friday, December 03, 2004

Turkish Accession, From Turkey's Point of View

The Centre for European Reform has published an essay which is unique in its level of understanding of the Turkey EU accession issue.

Why, because:
It considers which aspects of the accession process and the EU’s rule book will be unpalatable to various Turkish interest groups.
Most western groups simply focus on what citizens of current members think.
In 2005, the Commission will set out in detail those other conditions for entry particularly those that concern economic reform and the implementation of the EU’s rule book, known as the acquis communautaire. EU accession requires an enormous range of changes, from environmental policy to financial services. Many of these reforms will be difficult for Turkey to swallow because they will entail significant costs, as well as deep restructuring of the public administration over a long period.
As I have tried to tell many Turks, some of these reforms are probably necessary anyway, but many of them will be an enormous waste of Money, far more important than any welfare that can be cadged from the EU. They still prefer to believe that the EU is a silver bullet that will cure all their countries ills.
Many Turks including otherwise well-informed politicians, journalists and business-people, are unaware of what the EU will demand of their country.
Many are completely surprised when you tell them that regulations will add huge costs to doing business and that bureaucracy will get worse rather than better. In addition:
The Union therefore often asks applicants to undertake reforms in areas that are not in fact covered by common EU policies.
Try explaining that one to a sceptical public. There are certain sections of the Turkish public that will see this as way past the mark.
The Central and East Europeans found some EU rules difficult to adopt because they cost a lot. For example, the costs of compliance are very high in areas such as environmental standards for cleaner air and water. The Central European countries have estimated that the total cost of EU-related improvements in the condition of the Turkish expenditure from their national budgets after membership is about 3-4 per cent of their GDP.
Turkeys economy being such a strong one will of course have no problem spending such sums. No sorry what I wanted to say was that such sums could be spent on improving literacy, healthcare or other fundamental problems rather than on the curvature of Bananas. Besides, Turkey is not as developed as the majority of Eastern Europe, so the cost as a percentage of GDP could be higher. Just think what cıould be achieved with more sensibly chosen priorities.
Local authorities are also bridling at the EU’s demands that they should allow more competition for public contracts, both from local and foreign companies.
Corruption in public contract tenders is a huge source of problems in Turkey. Addition of tighter rules could be helpful, but then again looking at Brussels, the idea that the EU could help fight corruption is too outlandish to bear thinking about.
The practical consequences of membership negotiations will be difficult, but the change in mentality required will be even harder. The Ottoman Empire was a great power. Britain’s experience shows how hard it can be for ex empires to accept sharing sovereignty in the EU, especially if they go on thinking that it is primarily an economic union.
The crux of the matter. Turks will in the end, I believe, refuse to kow tow to the mandarins in Brussels. Like the British, they con themselves into thinking that the EU is primarily or totally about economics. When the truth strikes home, they are not going to be very good at playing happily with the other members.
The political elite hopes that it will ensure Turkey’s future as a democracy with a stable economy. But the Turks will find that the EU is not just a club based on a shared identity, but also a huge set of rules and regulations. Its day to day business is not about values but about fire safety in shops and hygiene standards in dairies.
What the political elite fails to understand is first that the EU as a guarantee of democracy is in itself a bizarre notion, but that secondly, democratisation is a process that almost always goes hand in hand with economic development. The EU accession process has undoubtedly sped up the process in certain respects, but it was going to happen anyway. There are two economies in Turkey, as in other developing countries. The first one pays taxes, keeps to regulations and pays social security on its employees wages. The second economy is based on cash, personal contacts, minimal tax and corruption. The more rules there are, the bigger the advantage will be for the underground economy. Big business will be unable to compete, the professionalisation of the economy which is currently rapid, will grind to a halt. Professional dairies will whither, the worst kind will flourish. Not the aim I know, but that’s the reality.
Turkeys leaders have to start explaining to their country that the long road to EU membership will be hard, but the destination will be worth it.
In this whole essay, there is not one single fact to support the assumption that it will be worth it. But if the Turks want to risk 4% of their GDP, risk becoming a welfare case, and to divert their attention from the real issues that face them, then whom am I to disagree.

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