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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 237,972 182,848 147,700 21
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,790 2,500 2,530 92
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 162 - (24/12/10)

EU membership imminent?
It is curious that so many countries are obsessed about joining the EU. The two richest countries in Europe of any size are Norway and Switzerland, which have made a point of not joining the EU. They are doing very well without doing so, thank you very much.

Still, they are both geopolitically as secure as could be. The states in the Balkans or debouching onto them, such as Turkey, feel insecure, as well they might. Their reasons for wanting to join up are geopolitical rather than economic.

Turkey's EU accession talks risk imminent failure due to the Cyprus dispute and France's opposition to full membership for Turkey. Without a breakthrough, the process will come to a halt at the end of 2011.

Much of the Turkish public has already lost interest. In 2004, 73% of Turks considered EU membership to be a good thing, but that number dropped to 38% by 2010. The EU's decision to offer visa-free travel to almost all Balkan countries, leaving Turkey in the cold, has frustrated Turks and deepened their belief that their country will never enter the EU.

"It is hard to believe that you are really welcome to join a Union when citizens are not even trusted to travel there without a complex, expensive and sometimes demeaning process of being screened in consulates," Berlin-based European Stability Initiative (ESI) Chairman Gerald Knaus told SETimes.

"At a time when Turkish citizens are desperate to see new signs of commitment and goodwill from Europe, the EU must offer Turkey a roadmap for lifting visa restrictions," he said, adding that this will increase support for the EU process and reforms in Turkey. "This will be the Viagra for the membership process."

Still without an EU roadmap
Of all the candidate countries, Turkey remains the only one without a formal EU roadmap towards visa-free travel. EU officials say that, until recently, the absence of an EU-Turkey re-admission agreement posed a key obstacle to such a roadmap.

Seven years of negotiations on the document are now coming to a close. Under the re-admission agreement, Turkey will be obliged to take back citizens found to be residing illegally in an EU state, as well as third-country nationals and stateless persons found to have entered the EU via Turkey.

Unlike the smaller Balkan countries, Turkey has a population of more than 72 million and a large number of unemployed people. The country is also is one of the main transit routes for international human trafficking.

"The risk would be manageable ... visa liberalisation does not mean the right to work," Knaus says.

According to the ESI, with a visa roadmap, Turkey will increase co-operation with the EU on security issues, and also further improve its human rights situation and non-discrimination policies so that no courts in the EU would have to grant asylum to Turkish citizens, because there would no longer be any need.

Cengiz Aktar, chairman of the Department of EU Relations at Bahcesehir University says a move by the EU towards visa liberalisation is extremely important, but doubts whether it can become reality.

"Visa liberalisation and the EU's move to address Turkey's concerns on the functioning of the Customs Union are the key points that can restore confidence and revive the EU process," he told SETimes.

According to Aktar, one source of frustration among Turks is the failure to manage expectations, a situation fuelled by some politicians and media.

"One has to be careful not to create false expectations among the public. It seems visa liberalisation, if and once agreed on, would only apply to businessmen, scholars and students. One has to tell this straight from the beginning," Aktar cautioned.

Greece calls for new EU roadmap for Turkey, fixed dates for Western Balkans
The EU should hold a summit with Turkey after the 2011 parliamentary elections there to adopt a new roadmap for the country's accession to the 27-nation bloc, Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsas said on November 22nd.
"I think this is really the time to have a frank discussion with all the member states and also with Turkey," Greece's top diplomat said at a seminar, hosted by the European Policy Centre (EPC), a Brussels-based think tank. "We have to make our minds up again within the European Union, what our expectations are concerning Turkey."

The roadmap, to be discussed with the government that will take office after next year's elections, should clearly spell out Turkey's obligations and define the timeframe for implementation, according to Droutsas. That new strategy should also set "a specific date for Turkey's accession to the EU -- assuming, of course, the relevant ratifications are forthcoming from the member states and Turkey," he added.

Turkey began membership talks in October 2005, but the process has been moving at a snail's pace, largely due to Ankara's sluggish reform progress and its refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from EU member Cyprus.

In addition, some influential member states have been arguing that Ankara should be offered a "privileged partnership" rather than full-fledged membership -- a position Droutsas takes issue with.

"I do not question the qualms some member states have," Droutsas said. "What I am asking is that they not be allowed to prefigure the result or move the goalposts in mid-game. The rule we must abide by says that the road to full accession must remain open."

The prospect of eventual EU membership has proved an important catalyst of democratic reform in Turkey, so it should be encouraged to make further progress along that road, he adds.

"The more alive the European process is, the more democratic Turkey becomes," Droutsas said.

Although many of the bloc's citizens are opposed to the predominantly Muslim country's eventual EU entry, attitudes may change as Turkey implements change, he added.

"I know that when this question is put to European citizens a few years down the road, it won't be about today's Turkey," Droutsas said. "It will be about a European Turkey that respects international law and honours the principle of good neighbourly relations. A Turkey that protects the religious freedom of all its citizens and respects the rights of all the minorities living within its borders."

But he also said that Ankara cannot hope to join the EU as long as it keeps thousands of Turkish troops stationed in Cyprus's north and that the Greek Cypriots may continue to block its accession process.

Droutsas, whose country is scheduled to take over the six-month rotating EU presidency from Lithuania on January 1st 2014, also sees the need to invigorate the process of further expansion, despite the "enlargement fatigue" felt in many member states today.

Greece's previous chairmanship of the Union in the first half of 2003 ended with a successful summit dedicated to the Western Balkan countries' EU integration and the adoption of the Thessaloniki declaration, outlining a series of measures to facilitate the process.

Seven years later, Croatia is on track to join the Union as its 28th member by 2012, while the rest of the region's EU hopefuls are in various stages of the accession process.

Droutsas said that, during its 2014 EU presidency, Greece would push for a new Thessaloniki declaration, setting specific benchmarks for progress and target dates for the Western Balkan nations' admission into the bloc.

Reuters quoted him as saying that the EU could consider setting 2018 as a target date. He stressed, though, that setting a date would not mean that countries could join at that time if they have not met all conditions.

Droutsas also said that despite its current financial problems, the EU should be able to find the needed funding to assist the aspiring countries in their reform efforts.
 


 

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