The government should review its foreign policy and refocus on Turkey’s European Union membership bid to boost the economy and democratization process, one of the country’s top bosses has warned.
Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) President Muharrem Yılmaz criticized the government’s current foreign policy, particularly regarding Syria, while praising its opposition to the coup in Egypt, during a meeting of TÜSİAD’s high advisory board on Sept. 20.
"When the Arab Spring began to affect Syria, Turkey made efforts to manage this process peacefully. But the civil war couldn’t be prevented. As the crisis gained new dimensions, the policy adopted proved to be ineffective and caused Turkey be seen as one of the conflicting parties,” Yılmaz said, adding that he hoped a permanent solution in Syria could be found without a military intervention.
"We expect and hope that Turkish foreign policy will be managed in a way to position our country as an agent in solution processes, and not in a confrontation, in line with its deep seated pacifist tradition,” he said.
Yılmaz, however, praised the government’s position on events in Egypt, saying that military coups were a poison whose antidote is "advanced democracy.”
The TÜSİAD head also stated that anti-Western discourse was a cause of concern both within Turkey and abroad, adding that a vision that sees many countries as "enemies” of Turkey and the use of harsh rhetoric against neighboring countries reduced Turkey’s influence in the international community.
With this in mind, Yılmaz urged that the EU full membership process should become a target again, as this was previously an important reference for the country in terms of economic development and democratization.
Full membership to EU in five years
As a priority, TÜSİAD wants a date to be determined for full membership. "Turkey’s full membership to the EU should be finalized at most in five years. The date of membership should come before the enforcement date of the free trade agreement between the United States and the EU,” Yılmaz said.
If Turkey is left out of the final free trade agreement between the EU and the U.S., which started being negotiated in July, it could cause the Turkish economy to lose $20 billion per year, according to an analysis prepared by the Brookings Institute and TÜSİAD.
"It is unacceptable for Turkey to be excluded from the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement, the new integration project of the Western world,” Yılmaz said.
The EU should be sincere and shouldn’t shy away from democracy during Turkey’s membership negotiation process, he said, adding that it should immediately open the 22nd, 23rd and 24th negotiation chapters.
Yılmaz reminded that one of the characteristics of the West, accepted as a reference by Turkey since the foundation of the republic for a modernization target, was secular government that adopts democracy, individual freedoms and has respect for all beliefs. This is also the Copenhagen political criteria that Turkey is committed to adopting, he said.
Yılmaz also touched on the global financial crisis, saying that financial bubbles were fading out and that it was time to determine a new growth model.
6 percent growth rate
A growth rate for Turkey of 4 percent in the short run and 6 percent in the middle run is possible, he said, revealing a formula that recommends reforms in three fields.
Firstly, in order to grow by 6 percent, domestic savings should increase at least 3 percent points to solve the problems due to growth rate and current account deficit, he said. Secondly, the economic impact of the ongoing process to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue should be reinforced with the involvement of the business community, and will add an extra 1 percent point to the growth rate.
Thirdly, Yılmaz stressed that supply-side structural reforms should be implemented, adding that well targeted education policy measures alone could boost economic growth by 0.5 to 1 percent points.