the Blog Papers of Dr. Michael Sakbani; Economics, Finance and Politics

Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.

Monday, January 01, 2007

On Turkey and the EU Mebership: Evaluation of the Objections

Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.
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MONDAY, JANUARY 01, 2007

On Turkey and the EU Membership: Evaluation of the Objections 
                  By Dr. Michael Sakbani 

The commentaries published recently in the international press on Turkey`s adhesion to the EU, have a garden basket variety of arguments. The purpose of this comment is to group the most important of these arguments and evaluate their empirical and theoretical contents.
Even though European Officials have taken the decision to start negotiations with Turkey, these commentaries seem to want to reopen the issue of joining once again. The arguments grouped in this paper are used by their advocates on the two ideological extremes: the chauvinist nationalists and religious right on one extreme and the demagogic Euro centrists on the left. There is a whole cast of characters and a slew of arguments on each side, which turn out upon critical examination to mask other motives.
Dr. Michael Sakbani is a professor of economics and Finance at the Geneva campus of Webster-Europe. He is a senior international consultant to the UN system, European Union and Swiss banks. His career began at the State university of NY at Stoney Brook,then the Federal Reserve Bank of New York followed by UNCTAD where he was Director of the divisions of Economic Cooperation, Poverty Alleviation, and UNCTAD`s Special Programs. Published over 100 professional papers.
Contributors
·        Michael Sakbani
·        Michael Sakbani
Recent Posts
Powered by Blogger
MONDAY, JANUARY 01, 2007

On Turkey and the EU Membership: Evaluation of the Objections 
                  By Dr. Michael Sakbani 

The commentaries published recently in the international press on Turkey`s adhesion to the EU, have a garden basket variety of arguments. The purpose of this comment is to group the most important of these arguments and evaluate their empirical and theoretical contents.
Even though European Officials have taken the decision to start negotiations with Turkey, these commentaries seem to want to reopen the issue of joining once again. The arguments grouped in this paper are used by their advocates on the two ideological extremes: the chauvinist nationalists and religious right on one extreme and the demagogic Euro centrists on the left. There is a whole cast of characters and a slew of arguments on each side, which turn out upon critical examination to mask other motives.
The commentaries published recently in the international press on Turkey`s adhesion to the EU, have a garden basket variety of arguments. The purpose of this comment is to group the most important of these arguments and evaluate their empirical and theoretical contents.
Even though European Officials have taken the decision to start negotiations with Turkey, these commentaries seem to want to reopen the issue of joining once again. The arguments grouped in this paper are used by their advocates on the two ideological extremes: the chauvinist nationalists and religious right on one extreme and the demagogic Euro centrists on the left. There is a whole cast of characters and a slew of arguments on each side, which turn out upon critical examination to mask other motives.


What are the arguments

Géography  and Geopolitics
The first of these arguments, espoused especially by the French opponents, is that Turkey is not in Europe and has historically its own non European identity. Some of these advocates say that Lebanon and Israel and even Tunisia, are much closer to Europe than is Turkey. If the European project is a geopolitical one, it becomes rather difficult to understand the relevance of geographic classification therein. One usually thinks that geographic categorization is essentially a classification rubric for teaching maps, roads, locations and natural resources. Surely, Siberia, which is in Asia, is closer and more relevant politically to Russia than Portugal, which is in Europe. The strange thing about those geography advocates is that in the same breath they advocate a geopolitical vision. On such a plain, Turkey seems certainly more important in geostrategic terms than Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Hungry or the Baltic states, to cite a few. It is legitimate to ask why is it that the Eastern frontier of Europe depends on the candidate: it is at Istanbul for Turkey but at Siberia for Ukraine. For good or bad, Turkey has for the last 80 years declared itself a part of Europe and has acted accordingly. Why has this become a question only when the European Union was created? All throughout the cold war and before during the Second World War, Turkey was solicited to join Europe and it was said often that its NATO membership was one of the major lynch-pins for the Continent. However, now that it is a question of forming a club, Turkey, in this view, should be kept outside because in Geography books it is not all European. Is the European public so ignorant of such contradictions or are the politicians hiding behind Turkey’s membership the public disenchantment with the larger Europe?
Religion
 The second prototype argument is the religious one: Turkey, it is said, is not Christian and this heritage is of defining value for Europe. True, Turkey it is not Christian. But the Christian heritage of most European countries has been transformed over time; the enlightenment has fundamentally transformed scriptural Christianity into a European system of belief compatible with European Secularism. Today, polls show that roughly 10 percent of the population in Western Europe attend regular mass. The European battle of secularism is played out in Turkey nowadays: Islam in Turkey has been confronting the secular modernist culture of the Turkish Republic just like Europe confronted religion during the enlightenment. Nobody can claim that the secularists have lost the day in Turkey. I submit that it is more relevant to invoke the universal character of the culture of the modern West. On this score, Turkey decidedly belongs and subscribes to the Western culture which has effectively become the dominant culture of modernism. Turkey, in a strict sense, is no more Islamic than Europe is Christian. We live at the age of Globalization; is not it parochial to invoke local cultural differences? Of course, that is not so for both the religious fanatics in the West and for the Islamic fundamentalists in Turkey and elsewhere; for them, separate cultural identities and barriers among civilizations are immutable. If one were to consider the defining characteristics of Islam and Christianity, then, except for the Trinity, they are almost identical. The differences that stand out today are evolutionary and they will wither away with social development. Some two hundred years ago, European women covered themselves like moderate Muslims do and their cultural ethics were not different from those of Muslims. The extremists are really a phenomenon apart from both mainstreams. There is much ignorance and prejudice running deep in this corner.

Absorptive Capacity
Another set of arguments center around the notion of absorptive capacity. Absorptive capacity has several components: political, administrative, and economic. France has been a major force behind the concept. President Chirac explicitly talked about the multiple dimensions of the concept in the Nice Conference in relation to EU expansion. Regarding the political dimension, the argument is that Turkey, a country of 75 million inhabitants will have a weight roughly equal politically to that of Germany in the European institutions, especially the European parliament. It should be recalled that the Nice treaty diluted the population factor. Furthermore, if one were to consider relative weight after the last expansion, then Turkey will have a small weight in the total, roughly, 12 %; it will hardly be in a position to push by itself something or block anything. Turkey will have to form coalitions with other members in pursuing its political agenda. As to the Administrative argument, it is said that managing the Union is already quite difficult and If Turkey joins, it will be all the more so. There is no doubt that the EU has become difficult to manage. However, this is not a problem that Turkey’s joining will create; it is there already in the Union of twenty-seven. This problem is the result of following a one-speed model for Europe. Except for the advocates of a federalist Europe, this model is not arguably the only optimal one to choose. There could be equally attractive multi-speed models for Europe. So, it is not really a question brought about by Turkey’s entry.
 Another aspect of the absorptive capacity is the potential immigration of labor. Models simulating the effect of Turkish entry, including the Commission’s show that the impact of immigration is minor, less than 4 million immigrants in an active labor force of 375 million. This is corroborated by the data on the relative impact therein of the new entrants, which represent more or less an equal human weight. The immigration factor nevertheless, plays out on two fronts: that of pull towards Europe initially and that of counter pull towards Turkey later on. As Turkey further grows and develops, it will be more attractive for marginal labor to stay home. Thus, this is really a question that will resolve itself in time. Other aspects of the absorption argument revolve around the economic cost of accepting Turkey. Considering the changes in the aid formula effected at the time of the last expansion, and factoring in what Turkey already receives under the various help formulae, the extra cost is projected to be about 1.2 % of the EU GDP, a modest amount. It should be pointed out that at the time of the joining, the new entrants had a per capita income lower than will Turkey have a few years from today. Taking into account Turkey`s rapid growth, twice as fast as the average membership, one can argue that by the time of entry, perhaps 15 years from now, Turkey will be decidedly less burdensome than have been the new entrants.
Balance of Cost-Benefit
Another argument concerns the economic interests of Europe of Turkish entry. Here the advocates of exclusion often slide over to the cost side and give short shrift to the benefits. There is a genuine positive interest for Europe in this regard. Turkey will be a large market for European products and investors. Moreover, its rapid growth, double the average growth of members, will promise rapid expansion of European exports. As its labor force gets more skilled and educated, it is likely that Turkey will make a positive contribution to the European stock of skilled labor and will thereby enhance European productivity growth. Moreover, the relative youth of the Turkish labor force will also play a significant role in redressing the demographic imbalance of Europe between its aging active workers and retirees. In a few years, one active European worker will have to support one retiree.

The Armenian Massacre
Yet still another argument is the Armenian massacres of 1913-1915. It is said that Turkey has yet to confront its past and accept its responsibilities for these massacres. Let us first examine the facts. In 1913, the Armenian nationalists declared that their aim is to carve up an independent state on one-fourth of the territory of present-day Turkey. When World War I was engaged, the Armenian nationalists joined on the side of Tsarist Russia and called the population to rise up against the Ottoman state. The nationalist and religious leaders of the Arminian community in Ottoman Turkey placed its faith in Tsarist Russia and declared forthright affiliation with Russia. Thereafter, Armenian volunteers bands organized by the Party Dashnak repeatedly attacked the Ottoman rear lines and collaborated with the Russians, one of whose armies were commanded by a nationalist Armenian General.
The hostility of the Arminian nationalists and the local Arminian community towards the Turks dates back several decades before the
great war. In the twilight years 1915-1917 when the Ottomans were fighting for their life and when imperial Russia suffered devastating military defeats in the war, the region of South Caucase was ruled , at least nominally, by a coalition of three parties: the Georgian Mensheviks, the Armenian nationalists and the Azari Musavat Party. This coalition represented the three local communities: the Georgians, the Azaris and the Armenians. However, because the Armenian nationalists claimed a part of Turkey, the story cannot be told without including the Ottoman Turkish population. The South Caucasus region was still a part of Russia. However as the revolution broke out in Russia, the three communities found themselves at odds with each other. The Georgians supported the Mensheviks of St. Petersburg while the Armenians put their faith and hope with the Bolsheviks. The Azaris supported the Ottoman Turks and all of the three wanted independence of their region. On the ground, the Armenians had an insignificant military presence, the Georgians had no quarrel with the Turks and the Ottoman Turks had the most significant military power. As the Arminian leader Hovhannes Katchnaznouni observed later on, the Armenians let their hopes dominate their political goals and allowed their enmity towards the Ottomans to dominate their strategy regardless of the facts on the ground
.
  After many disturbances and terrorist attacks and quite a bit of bloodshed, the Ottoman state took a series of measures against Armenian population concentration areas, including the displacement of the population. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Ottomans aimed at genocide, i.e. killing Armenians as such, but to redistribute population concentrations and safeguard their backlines. However, it is quite clear that a great deal of negligence and brutality was involved in carrying out these measures causing in the process, tens of thousands of civilian casualties. Interestingly, but only ex post facto, the Ottoman state put on trial several officials for their crimes and negligence in this affair. At any rate, the Ottomans carried out their anti-state repressions with brutality amplified by an Ottoman backward state apparatus. This same Ottoman backward state apparatus committed, under the same Governor, Cemal Pasha, similar brutal acts in Syria, Lebanon and present-day South-Eastern Turkey. Dozens of educated Arabs were marched off to execution in Damascus and Beirut in 1916 after one-day trials. To be sure, these repressions were not on the same scale as the Armenian massacres, but still, it was the same repressive apparatus that was chasing what it conceived as the enemies of the state.
 There is no doubt that massacres, involving hundreds of thousands, did take place, just as there is no doubt that the Ottoman state bears responsibility for these shameful acts. But that is not the same as asking today’s Turkey to admit Genocide. In this respect, the question arises: is it fair to judge the Ottoman state by our standards? And, is it fair to ask the Turkish Republic to accept responsibility for acts committed before its establishment? In the final analysis, regrettable and tragic as these acts are, what relevance do they bear upon Turkish membership in the EU at this time? Is there any European country with no bloodshed on its hands in current history? France in Algeria and elsewhere, Britain throughout the world, the Belgians in the Congo, the Dutch in Indonesia, the Germans in two world wars and the Italians in Libya and Ethiopia.
Perhaps Turkey should be asked to, and it ought on its own, to make a gesture of reconciliation towards the victims; that would be fair and it would do honor to Turkey. A good suggestion is to form an impartial committee of historians to examine the records and pronounce on this tragedy, and Turkey has on the record, accepted that. On the evidence at hand today, genocide is neither historically justified nor is its admission fair to Turkey.
Cyprus
The suspension of adhesion negotiations last month provided another argument to unravel the deal: the Cyprus issue. Turkey, which invaded Cyprus in 1976 and cut up the island in two, is responsible for its actions. Yet, the Cyprus issue matured through the UN and was inching towards reunification two years ago. In a free referendum, the Turkish minority pushed on by Turkey voted to accept Mr. Ann
en`s proposals for reunification. However, despite the blessings of Greece to this plan, the Island Greek politicians campaigned against it and the Greek majority rejected it. In the event, Turkey has refused to normalize its relations with the Greek Cyprus government until Europe lifts its sanctions against the Turkish part, whose majority supported reunification. The matter is entirely negotiable and a deal can surely be found to solve this problem.
The Copenhagen Principles
 There are also some arguments about the application of the accord of the Copenhagen Principals. However, Turkey has unambiguously committed itself to that. Turkey`s entry to Europe will certainly bring about problems and impose burdens, but this is not unique to Turkey; it has been so since the Twelve decided the expansion process. The balance of costs and benefits, when factors are pinned down empirically, is favorable. How is it then that politicians touch a sensitive chord in public opinion when they oppose Turkish entry? The reason may be in the sociological perception of the immigrant Turk as compared to the average European image of himself. The Turkish immigrant next door is typical of peasant culture, of limited interest in his guest country and of Islamic traditions, which in their outward appearance (traditional women garb), all are characteristics of the other. The comparison is always in relation to a European complementary self-image, a stereotype, enforced by the progress of European societies in the last three hundred years. An average Turk from an educated urban background might have the same reaction to his fellow immigrant as an average European. But such understandable reactions are founded on ignorance of the other. They are also static in their mental grasp; the immigrant is always the immutable other with whom one is uncomfortable. What a poor basis for a policy that would be. It is really important that Europe should not be defined as a self-satisfied ethnocentric group ensconced in an exclusively Christian club.

 Geneva 22/12/2006.
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