EU to come to the rescue of Turkey’s Central Bank

EU to come to the rescue of Turkey’s Central Bank

“The mathematics of the progress; a different look at the European Commission’s progress reports on Turkey,” is a study prepared by the Economic Development Foundation (İKV). 

According to information provided in this study published before the 2015 progress report, the commission’s previous 17 reports made up 1,786 pages. This is 6.5 times more than the content of the Lisbon treaty. 

The first report published in 1998 contained 57 pages, which was the shortest. The second report in 1999, which opened the door to accession negotiations, was 58 pages. The number of pages increased following the start of accession talks, reaching into the hundreds. The number of pages hit a peak with 187 pages in 2004 and started to decrease after 2005, with the 2014 report containing just 80 pages.

Melih Özsöz, the deputy secretary general of the İKV who prepared the report, argued that the number of pages decreased in parallel with the stalling of the accession talks after 2010. By contrast, the “weight” of the political criteria, in other words the references to political criteria, shows a growing trend. Starting from 2005, references to political criteria make up around 30 percent of the report, with the 2011 report hitting a peak as 36 percent was dedicated to political criteria.

This, according to Özsöz, demonstrates how progress reports have become politicized. 

As has also been underlined by the study, Turkey has never been a normal candidate. So the fact that progress reports have been politicized over the years – a phenomenon criticized in the study – does not come as a surprise to me.

In the period following the start of accession negotiations, public interest in progress reports decreased over the years. There was less need for EU leverage as a motivation since democratic reforms were in full swing. “It is normal that there is less interest in progress reports because from now on, this is a rather boring technical alignment process,” a diplomat told me. 

However, with 17 out of 34 chapters blocked by the EU on political grounds, and successive electoral victories that boosted the confidence of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the government lost political interest in the accession negotiations. This stalling suited the interests of the EU members since they did not wish to see Turkey as a member in the near future. 

It was only natural for the commission, however, to focus on political criteria as Turkey started to slide back on democratic reforms. All the prevailing conviction in the globe in the past that democracy would follow economic development, based on the false belief that societies need bread before transparency or accountability, has now been replaced by the view that you can attain faster economic development through democracy. In other words, integration with the EU needs to start from political alignment. 

At any rate, it is fair to say that the accession process came to a standstill both because the reports were politicized instead of being kept technical and because Turkey has backpedalled on political criteria.

The current developments in EU-Turkey relations show us again how the accession process has been politicized. There is an expectation that talks on Chapter 17 will start before the end of the year. This was recommended in the 2015 report. This was out of question because of France’s veto; now that there is a different president in Paris, talks can start on economic and monetary policy!

No matter how politicized and unfair it may be, I have always had great faith in the EU accession process. I could not help but smile when I read that Turkey had to “avoid any political interference in the independence of the Central Bank” if it is to start talks on Chapter 17. 

It seems the EU will come to the rescue of the Central Bank to save it from the outbursts of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.