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Uncertainty: Will EU reforms continue?
In my last commentary, I tried to shift my focus away the crisis and addressed the medium-long run and thus the issue of reforms. Among the barriers beyond the implementation of a series of reforms that are known or considered to be efficient in economic terms, the most important one was that the winners and the losers of the reform could not be determined in advance.
The reforms that will relatively improve the conditions for the majority of the society if implemented may lead to resistance of a significant part of the society due to the pre-reform ambiguity. Furthermore, the part of the society resisting the reform might be the party that will win as a result of the reform. However, they do not know the potential gain in advance. Therefore, the reforms which are efficient in economic terms can be rejected in political terms. Of course, the direct opposite is as well valid. The reforms that are initially deemed acceptable in political terms can face resistance as in time the ones finding it acceptable acknowledge that they will lose as a result of the reform, and thus the reform process stops.
The details of two articles on this issue written in 1990 can be found below. Such ambiguities are also valid for Turkey's EU accession process. Especially, the discussions that took place before the Customs Union agreement and the results appeared in advance are striking with this respect. However, let us put aside those discussions and ignore such ambiguities mentioned above. There exists another major element that obstructs the process for Turkey towards the EU. In fact, we all know what this is: The views that the prominent politicians and opinion leaders in the EU state on Turkey's accession.
It is doubtless that there might be differences in views; however, the striking point here is that a politician states opposing views at different time periods. When the same person keeps saying things that imply "yes", "no" and "maybe", there arises significant ambiguities considering Turkey's EU accession process.
This the additional ambiguity to the ones emphasized to be 'hardening the situation' in the academic literature that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation efforts most Eastern Europe countries in the Soviet bloc towards market economy. It has the potential to make the EU accession process further challenging.
I noted this:
on December 15, 2008 at 8:00 P.M. I searched for "Turkey's accession, EU, Sarkozy or Merkel" at Google and ended with 92700 results. It is enough to take a look at the first 10 results to acknowledge the depth of the ambiguity. The first 10 results I mentioned indicate contradictory views from the same person stated in a period of few months.
The following quotation is from the 15 December 2008 dated No 197 report of the International Crisis Group on Turkey (page 4): "Paradoxically, the slowdown in reforms coincided with the opening of EU membership negotiations. This was partially caused by a growing sense of disappointment and frustration with Europe as senior leaders began to raise their voices against membership. In her 2005 election campaign, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the goal of negotiations to be downgraded to privileged partnership. French President Nicolas Sarkozy made opposition to membership a major plank of his 2007 campaign and tried to remove references to Turkey's "accession" from any EU statements." (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm.)
We under any circumstances can find a way to improve our welfare level. Is not that what we have been doing until now? The comments like "The Arab world has found an Al-Nasir" are spreading around. I am wondering, what if we consider the difficulties posed by the mentioned ambiguities and give up the EU accession efforts.
Sources I referred to: 1) Fernandez, R. and Rodrik, D. (1991). 'Resistance to reform: status quo bias in the presence of individual-specific uncertainty',
The American Economic Review, 81, pp. 1146-55. 2) Wyplosz, C. (1993).
'On the economics and politics of economic transformation', European Economic Review, 37, pp. 379-86.
This commentary was published in Radikal daily on 01.02.2009