EU accession has broad-based support throughout Turkish society. The reasons are obvious. Turkey already benefits from its free-trade relationship with Europe; more than half of its trade is with European nations. Now that a conditional date for EU negotiations has been set, Turkey can be expected to continue its remarkable economic progress: more than 10% growth in GNP per year and a quadrupling of employment in 2005 according to the European Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). From the United States’ perspective, Turkey’s growing economic ties with Europe is an extremely positive trend.
In meeting after meeting, Network 20/20 heard the Turkish argument for accession. It goes something like this: In ten years, Turkey will have a population of close to 80 million people with significant purchasing power. Turkish markets offer opportunities for European investors. Turkish workers will supply Europe with needed laborers at a time when Europe’s population is shrinking and aging. Turks have ethnic, cultural and religious ties in the Caucasus, East Central Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East that can be used to help secure energy resources and foster trade. “You can buy bread in Turkish from Germany to China,” said one Turkish official; “what other country can make such a claim?” Finally, Turks argue that their military will add considerable strength to EU forces. With Turkey on board, they say, the EU can become a global rather than a regional player.