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EUs Sirat bridge: economic reforms

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EUs Sirat bridge: economic reforms

The grueling economic reform package and the miserable state of Turkey’s education system are the two leading points of the EU Accession Partner...

Kurdish-language broadcasts on television and the Cyprus issue became the leading topics of discussion in Turkey immediately following the release of the Accord, which defines short- and medium-term measures Turkey must carry out in order to harmonize with the EU’s political and economic criteria throughout its status as a candidate. Therefore, the Accord, in addition to the Annual Report, puts forward economic targets in addition to political ones. This, on the Turkish front, is tantamount to a tough and challenging reform program.



       The Annual Report calls for the completion, if not the serious attempt to complete, 29 leading economic objectives. The EU’s representative to Turkey, Ambassador Karen Fogg, discussed all of the details of the economic restructuring calendar that Turkey must fulfill in order for negotiations on accession to begin, summarizing it in the following manner: “If we were to compare you with other candidates, we could easily say that Poland’s economy is far more liberal than yours. Macro economic stability has been a success in Poland, and their privatization program is more progressive than yours. Turkey must adamantly adhere to its stabilization program in order to gain ground on Poland. Yet Turkey’s leading problem is its lack of an organized workforce.”



       In fact, Turkey’s educational level is far below the educational levels of other candidate countries. Literacy rates are far below those in other candidate countries, and yet Turkey still sets aside a meager 2.2% of the annual Gross National Product for educational purposes. This is even lower than half of the amount set aside in Poland and in Hungary. The World Bank’s 1999 Global Development Report reveals this ugly truth of political choices for all to see. A total of 74% of all Polish citizens are high school graduates and 10% have university degrees. These figures are 63% and 13% for Hungarians, respectively. In Turkey, however, only 17% of the population are high school graduates, while only 6% have university degrees.



       Let us look at the Annual Report, which claims that Turkey’s macro-economic stabilization program is sustained by an inflexible structural reform program. The report, which has a generally favorable view of the first year of Turkey’s stabilization program, also reveals that the state still intervenes in the economy, meaning the non-existence of a “free market” economy, which, inadvertently, harms the rules of competition in the country. The report demonstrates how simple intervention by the state on one front leads to various distortions on other economic fronts, and points to the lack of a stable public financing model. The report stresses that public enterprises cannot become productive without high-level investments during their privatization, and that the private sector also faces this obstacle to productivity.



       The Accord lists 16 short-term goals of interest to every one. For example, there is a call for the establishment of an independent body that would regulate the electricity and natural gas sectors. The harmonization of Turkey’s energy legislation to that of the EU’s is stressed as an inflexible stipulation of a second round of financial aid. The EU, which is also demanding coordination in telecommunications, calls for a stronger unit with supervisory powers.



       The Accord, which stresses goals with respect to the stabilization program under an economic criteria heading, covers a vastly comprehensive field for reforms, from an area including “combating piracy within the framework of intellectual property laws,” to bringing “transparency to state purchases.” The Accord aims to raise Turkey’s standards to the level of the EU’s under titles such as “transportation, fisheries, agriculture and statistics,” and also presents goals that have a direct impact on workers. The EU demands the drafting of a detailed program for harmony on this front, insistent on the “preparation of the grounds to enable effective and independent social dialogue in addition to the removal of obstacles restricting unionist activities.”

       In other, clearer words, Turkey must achieve deep, economic and collective reforms of every element of society, just as it must successfully achieve its stabilization program to enter the negotiations.


       (Sirat bridge, in Islam, is the bridge extending from the world to Paradise, one that is “more slender than hair and sharper than a sword.”)


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The grueling economic reform package and the miserable state of Turkey’s education system are the two leading points of the EU Accession Partner...