October 17, 2004

WHY BOARD A SINKING SHIP?:

Ankara should be wary of Brussels: Turkish membership of the EU will be good for Europe, but bad for Turkey (Owen Matthews, 10/16/04, The Spectator)

As Daniel Hannan has so forcefully argued in these pages, countries like Iceland and Norway, which have chosen to stay on the fringes of the Union but not be in it, can reap great economic benefits. This is especially true of Turkey, which, unlike the above-mentioned countries, has the added competitive advantage of a huge, cheap labour market. Turkey has the best of both worlds — it is in Europe’s customs union, and can trade freely with the EU while remaining outside its constrictive practices such as the social chapter, the 48-hour week and the crushing raft of health and safety and environmental legislation which make it so expensive to do business inside Europe. Turkey is ideally placed to be Europe’s outsourcing paradise. It has inexpensive skilled labour, and land and construction costs are low, as are the cost of living and transportation. In an ideal world, Turkey would do far better if it worked to cut down on its own corruption and bureaucracy (instead of importing Brussels’s), make foreign investment easier by scrapping regulation (instead of increasing it), and foster a functional banking sector. True, the EU will give structural funds to ease the costs of implementing all the bells and whistles of the 80,000-page acquis communautaire, but the bottom line is that Turkey, in implementing them, will be systematically undermining its competitiveness.

Pro-European Turks (who make up about 75 per cent of the population, according to newspaper opinion polls) are understandably enthused by the idea of free money from Brussels, and point out that European cash fuelled booms in Ireland and Spain, and have transformed Greek and Portuguese living standards. They hope for the same effect. But it isn’t going to happen. Times have changed since the free-spending, motorway-building, enterprise-park-sponsoring days of the 1980s, and the structural-fund cupboard will be pretty bare in a decade’s time, once the Eastern Europeans have finished raiding it. The other great lures of Europe — visa-free travel and work, and agricultural subsidies — will also lose their glitter by the time Turkey is ready to join. Already the Commission’s report has suggested ‘indefinite’ restrictions on freedom of movement for Turks even after they join, and similar derogations on the CAP which will effectively exclude Turkey’s farmers from the subsidy trough, while at the same time forcing restrictive quotas upon them.

Sadly, one of the most compelling arguments for Turkey joining Europe is a negative one: the kind of reforms which are currently transforming Turkey into an open society are only possible when underpinned by the promise of EU membership. Turkey’s reformers have always been inspired by imported models. Starting from the Tanzimat reforms of 1839, when Sultan Abd-ul-Medjid created a Western-style army and began wearing frock coats, reform in Turkey has always been synonymous with the adoption of European ways. General Kemal Atatürk, the avatar and founder of modern Turkey, set the pattern for today’s intercourse with Brussels — better to serve in the heaven of European civilisation than reign in the hell of the Middle East. Turkey’s current Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, has done more to transform Turkey in two years than his predecessors did in the previous half century, but he could not have done so, admits a senior Erdogan adviser, without the ‘multi-purpose tool’ of Europe with which to crack entrenched resistance to change in the army, judiciary and civil service. But the fact that the journey towards Europe is doing Turkey a power of good is not the same as saying that actually joining the EU will be a good thing. Like a bracing walk to a distant country pub, the benefit is in the journey, not the destination.


The Turks would be better served by forging closer ties to the Axis of Good: America, Britain, Australia, Taiwan, India, Israel, etc.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 17, 2004 6:14 PM
Comments

Pro-European Turks (who make up about 75 per cent of the population, according to newspaper opinion polls) are understandably enthused by the idea of free money from Brussels, and point out that European cash fuelled booms in Ireland and Spain, and have transformed Greek and Portuguese living standards. They hope for the same effect. But it isnt going to happen.

In the most optimistic scenario, the accession of Turkey breaks the bank. The Common Agricultural Policy -- the biggest boondoggle the world has ever seen, and a convenient way for the French to enrich themselves at the expense of the British -- would have to be disbanded.

No more farming subsidies. No more ridiculous charades such as "buyers" of tobacco "negotiating" with growers in Greece for a season's harvest of overpriced, inferior-quality tobacco, which is then immediately burned in huge bonfires, for which the "buyers" get reimbursed out of EU coffers.

Posted by: Eugene S. at October 17, 2004 7:52 PM

Turkey will never be allowed in because of the immigration issue.

Posted by: Bart at October 18, 2004 12:48 PM
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