'The cost of Non-Europe'

Published 22.07.2019 22:55
Updated 24.07.2019 00:50

"The cost of Non-Europe" was a very large, detailed survey initiated by the European Commission. The main organizer of this survey was Italian economist Paolo Cecchini, who had worked for the European Commission between 1960 and 1986. He was asked to serve as an independent advisor for the research undertaken in 1986. The study examined the benefits of unifying the European community's internal market and the free flow of persons, goods, services and capital through 1992. Its main results were released in March 1988. It would not be wrong to say that since the Cecchini Report, despite all the odds and turmoil of international developments, we know how to quantify "European integration" benefits on wealth and trade diversion over long periods.

The deepening of the common market and the Economic and Monetary Union are based on the correct assumption that increased interpenetration of European economies would, in the long run, only be beneficial for the member states.

The idea of enlarging, deepening and expanding European integration was already taken in the Hague summit in 1969. At the time, no one knew that the world would turn so global and so interdependent in few decades, but still, the idea of making the EU a whole, consistent, full-fledged bloc of countries was a brilliant idea.

The EU could have stayed a simple free trade area, as the British wanted it to become; instead, it has turned into an integration that is framed by common legislation, the Acquis Communautaire, and a set of values that have become more numerous and sophisticated over time.

What perhaps defines the EU member states is the fact that most of them, big countries and much smaller ones alike, have ruled important empires in the past. What became a reality after World War II was not so easy to accept. European countries that ruled the world after the Industrial Revolution were totally under the domination of the Soviet Union in the East and dependent on the U.S. in the West. Some visionary people, mostly the founding fathers of the EU, understood that old imperial systems were gone for good, and only a united Europe could become a coherent response to the challenges of the future. What has become the EU is the only great achievement of the European civilizations, who have committed suicide over two world wars, since 1945. In that sense, despite Brexit, despite the proliferation of populist, jingoist governments here and there, the EU is here to stay. It is not only a working system, in spite of crises and shortcomings, but also it has deep symbolic value nobody can seriously envisage abandoning.

Regarding Turkey's relations with the EU, nothing has been done to rectify the scenario where Turkey would gradually move away from European integration. This relationship has been intrinsically problematic since the Ankara Agreement in 1963. Still, the mutual need to collaborate and to get closer has pushed both parties to establish strong links. This rapprochement culminated in 1996 with the completion of the customs union.

To date, Turkey remains the only country in a full-fledged customs union with Turkey. If the U.K. leaves the EU in an orderly way, it is more than probable that a similar kind of system will be implemented also. At a time when Turkey took the final step for implementing the customs union, this was almost a revolutionary step to integrate Turkey into the single market. In fact, it has totally changed the functioning and the structure of Turkish industry.

Unfortunately, steps that should have followed this economic integration in the fields of politics have never been taken. Today, we are politically more distant from the EU than any comparable period in our history. The EU recently signed a free trade agreement with the Mercosur states, namely Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, meaning that more and more countries will have free access to the European single market, without Turkey being included in this trade.

That will take 10 years to be implemented, but this shows that Europe also remains a very important pole of attraction economically and socially. Having more and more distant and hostile relations with the EU will cost Turkey a price that will take decades to be paid. The same thing can also be said about the EU but for the time being, few voices have denounced the dangerous path our relations have taken.

Recent developments concerning the F-35 fighter project have shown us that Turkey perhaps more vitally needs a rapprochement with the EU than thought by some.

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