Abandoning the European Union
The Ministry in charge of European Union accession has been shut down. This is a symbolic development, but it means a lot because it is an important indication that Turkey has put an end to its EU adventure. In addition, an EU Turkey Desk official also announced that he would ask the EU Council to suspend membership negotiations for at least five years. Neither the government nor the citizens appeared to mind this development. Even the pro-EU business community has remained silent or indifferent.
Frankly, I wrote this piece because I did not have the heart to remain silent. Turkey’s EU adventure started with its membership application on July 31, 1959. Relations have always had ups and downs but in 1996, Turkey was able to enter the Customs Union with the EU. In 2005, it began full membership negotiations with the ambitious goal of finishing them by 2013. But even after 13 years, progress has faltered. As a result, today the relationship may be said to be broken. The Turkish people have not understood the EU very well. They have accused it of being a closed club and have blamed foreign powers for every problem Turkey has faced. The problem is not just the ruling party: other political parties have been guilty of this as well. Turkey has said goodbye to the EU without knowing what it gave up.
What is the EU? The EU is not simply an economic and monetary union. It is also an expression of cultural unity. It’s a union of people who have given up marginalizing others. Of course, there are countries, politicians, and groups - like Hungary and Austria - who have acted contrary to this ideal. However, the common wisdom of the EU has always been strong. According to purchasing power parity, the EU is the world’s second largest economy with a collective GDP of $19.9 trillion. It produces this GDP with only 7 percent of the world’s population (517 million people) so productivity per person is very high. The EU was severely affected by the 2008 crisis. However, at the end of the decade after the crisis, the inflation rate in the EU is steady at two percent (June 2018), the unemployment rate has fallen to 7.1 percent (compared to April 2018) and the growth rate in the first quarter reached 2.4 percent. The EU has a current account surplus of 63.9 billion euros and current account surplus to GDP ratio of 1.6 percent. The budget deficit in the EU is also down to one percent.
The German powerhouse
Germany has historically always been an important country for Turkey. We fought on the same side in the first world war. After the devastation of Germany during the second world war, Turkey provided labor to help it rebuild. Today, around four million Turks live and work in Germany. Turkey exported $73.9 billion to the EU and the EU’s share in total exports was 47.1 percent at the end of 2017. Germany is Turkey’s largest export market at $15.1 billion of goods last year, representing 9.6 percent of our total exports.
Germany is the economic engine of the EU, its shining star. Now, Turkey has given up on that shining star. Moreover, we have not only disrupted the partnership with an economic giant, we have also abandoned the pioneering power of a civilization that produced the Renaissance and the industrial revolution.
There is only one thing to say: Good luck!