By Shriya Chitale
Turkey’s relationship with the European has been contentious, at best. Despite consistent attempts on the part of Turkey to join the European Union, the country has been always blocked from joining. In response to questions regarding the blockade, the EU has pointed out the widespread human rights violations in the country as incompatible with the EU’s principles. Despite the significant impediments, it is not impossible for Turkey to be accepted to the EU in the future. However, it is not impossible for Turkey to be accepted to the EU. In a country reliant on their own currency and economic modes, Turkey’s acceptance to the EU will be transformative and challenging for both parties;however, the decision will stand to benefit everyone in the long-run.
Turkey’s proximity to the EU has meant that the two have economic relations that date back several decades. In 1995, Turkey signed a customs union with the EU to increase its industrial production while facilitating EU investment into the country.
Yet recently Turkey’s economic and political behavior contradicts that of the preceding decades. Turkey has backpedaled on his progress by refusing to address corruption and human rights abuses across the country . These shifts can largely be accredited to President Recep Erodgan’s recent rise to power.. Erdogan has always opposed Turkey’s parliamentary system, and in 2017, formed an alliance with Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party to create an executive presidency, which abolished the office of the Prime Minister in addition to further consolidating the President’s power. Under Turkey’s new form of government, Furthermore, President Erdogan has taken a much more conservative approach to domestic social issues, curtailing Turkey’s former secularism. But what has primarily disrupted the nation’s long economic growth is President Erdogan’s desire to interfere with the country’s central bank, specifically with respect to the bank’s interest rates. The culmination of the crisis was 2018, when private foreigncurrency debt reached astronomical levels. Additionally, Turkey’s foreign funding has been directed to areas of economic productivity. As the economy continues to suffer, it becomes more and more apparent that EU integration is a possible solution.
Since 2021, Turkey’s economy has showed signs of improvement — the government has claimed that they expect the country’s economy to grow by approximately 3%. This gives the EU an incentive to accept Turkey as economic stability indicates that Turkey will be able to fulfill the terms of their agreement. However, the intersection of economic growth and national security concerns is more likely to sway the EU rather than economics alone. Turkey shares a border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Economic instability leaves Turkey vulnerable to encroachment from rebel groups in these territories. If they were to succeed the EU would be faced with a major military conflict in its territory.
EU provided economic stability is a potential solution. Primarily, the wealth of resources and capital of the EU will bolster Turkey’s investment. An association with the EU is positive, particularly for both investors. Furthermore, this brings the potential of manufacturing to Turkey. EU membership gives Turkey credibility, but it is still likely that labor costs will be cheaper in Turkey compared to other EU countries. This has the potential to ease Turkey’s unemployment problem. Furthermore, this transition would not be a large change for EU member states, as Turkey has already shifted from a more agricultural economy to an industrial one.
Currently, Turkey’s trade with the EU accounts for approximately 40-50% of Turkey’s trade. Given the current political climate, there is no guarantee that trade will continue and remain stable; EU membership will solidify the existence of this market for Turkey. Additionally, it would make it possible for increased trade with the EU. This transition would not be difficult for Turkey given that most foreign firms operating there are already from EU states.
Opposition to Tukey’s entrance into the EU stems also from its own conersative wing of the government. These include questioning whether or not small businesses will be able to cope in this more competitive environment. According to data from the government, most small businesses in Turkey can be compartmentalized into the following industries: apparel, housmaking, and food. EBusiness originating from the EU, however, is more likely to affect defense and manufacturing. In this sphere, larger Turkish corporations will face competition, but they also have a stronger ability to combat the competition.
Turkey’s role in Europe has always been precarious. And with the increasing political instability, Turkey seems more and more alienated from European values. However, EU membership gives Turkey the potential to grow economically and adopt more democratic values from its fellow EU states. □