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Turkey’s economic contribution overlooked by the EU 18 avril 2012

Posted by Acturca in Books / Livres, Economy / Economie, EU / UE, Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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EUobserver.com (Belgium) 18 April 2012

Selim Kuneralp *

On the Road to EU Membership: The Economic Transformation of Turkey. By Selen Sarisoy Guerin and Yannis Stivachtis (eds.). VUBPress; 302 pages; €37.74 (excl. VAT and shipping) at EUbookshop.com.

This well-researched book should be read by anyone who is interested in the frequently ignored economic aspects of the EU’s relationship with Turkey and the likely costs that the EU will face if it allows the accession process to drift away.

Turkey is the EU’s longest-standing associate. It first applied to join the then European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959, concluded its Association Agreement in 1963, applied for membership again in 1989, was accepted as a candidate country in 1999 and started accession negotiations in 2005. Since 1995, it is also the only non-member country to be in a fully functioning customs union with the EU.

The accession negotiations have suffered from the Cyprus problem and the unwillingness of some influential members of the EU to envisage Turkey’s membership in the foreseeable future, despite the commitments that they have assumed over the years to that effect.

As a result, the negotiations have been effectively suspended since 30 June 2010, the date on which the last chapter was opened. There is no likelihood of an early resumption of those negotiations and the prospect of accession is receding as time passes. Public opinion in Turkey seems to have lost any confidence that it once may have had in the determination of the EU to proceed towards that objective.

While the debate about Turkey’s accession focuses in Europe on the desirability of admitting a country that many seem to regard as ill-suited for EU entry for essentially political reasons, the economic contribution that Turkey can bring to the EU is completely overlooked.

This book has the great merit of refocusing the debate on precisely that point. Turkey has a dynamic, thriving economy with growth rates that are unparalleled in Europe and an economic performance that in recent years has become the envy of every European leader. As is recalled in this book, Turkey is the only OECD country whose credit rating has actually increased since the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis.

The book does not aim to carry out an assessment of the likely effect of Turkey’s accession on the European economy, a subject that has already been addressed by the European Commission in its impact study of 2004 and elsewhere. Rather, it analyses the effect on the Turkish economy of the accession process as a guide for an assessment of the role that Turkey might play in the future of the EU economy.

Over 10 chapters, the authors look at the Customs Union, current economic policies and the target of accession, public sector governance, foreign direct investment flows, the labour market, SMEs, agriculture, energy, the media and other issues.

In its analysis of the Customs Union, the book highlights the fact that this arrangement goes far beyond the mere elimination of tariffs and other restrictions on trade or even the adoption by Turkey of the EU’s common external tariff, but that it has required Turkey to adopt the community acquis in many areas ranging from intellectual property rights to standards and competition.

The Customs Union has led to Turkey’s integration with both the EU market and the global economy and has greatly helped it to achieve the status of a functioning market economy. The reforms adopted after 2002 in preparation for accession have supported this effort. As a result, the Turkish economy has been completely opened to competition from the EU and has become the EU’s fifth biggest export market, ahead of Japan, India, Brazil and Korea. A considerable trade surplus in favour of the EU, that in 2011 reached €25 billion, should be seen as Turkey’s contribution to the recovery of European industry.

While many of the economic reforms implemented in the last decade were also required by Turkey’s efforts to restructure its economy following the crisis it suffered in 2000-2001, the EU’s role as an anchor is highlighted by the book. By blocking the opening of chapters in the accession negotiations, the EU deprives itself of the possibility of consolidating the position of its companies in the Turkish market.

Nowhere is this truer than in the energy area, where Turkey wants to help the EU diversify its energy routes but its efforts are thwarted by the refusal of the EU to open the energy chapter for unrelated reasons.

* Selim Kuneralp is Turkey’s former ambassador to the EU (2009 to 2011) and its incoming envoy to the World Trade Organisation in Geneva.

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