The institute is a think tank founded by the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) during the period of Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency in France. Back then, French President Sarkozy, who was very hostile to Turkey's membership of the EU, had blocked five chapters in addition to those ones blocked by Cyprus in Turkey's EU accession talks. The Bosporus Institute had worked to address problems between Turkey and France using bilateral meetings.
Since then, twice a year, the institute organizes meetings on Turkey's EU relations, where current problems are discussed. It is usual during the opening dinner to hear ministers from both sides expressing the official positions of their governments concerning Turkey-EU relations. Member of the National Assembly of France Jean-Marie Leguen took the floor first. He had a positive approach, stating that the French government is favorable to the pursuit of negotiations, is not putting up any obstacles to them and the time of his government blocking Turkey in the process is over. He also added that France supports the opening of the chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights as well as the chapter on justice, freedom and security.
Then Minister Bozkır took the floor. After explaining that Turkey is working on areas in the chapters that are not opened yet, he proposed that, besides the two chapters quoted above, the French government support the opening of the chapter on economic and monetary policies -- the 17th chapter. Let me recall that before the Great Recession, i.e., the 2008 global crisis, Turkey had declared it was ready to open this chapter, which was not being blocked by Cyprus, but President Sarkozy refused it, arguing that the 17th chapter concerns full membership.
Minister Bozkır may be right by proposing the opening of the 17th chapter, since it is not blocked by Cyprus, while the two chapters on justice and freedom mentioned by Minister Leguen are, so it requires the consent of the Greeks, which is not realistic given the state of negotiations between Turks and Greeks in Cyprus. Probably Minister Bozkır wanted both to make effectively possible the opening of a new chapter and at the same time encourage the French government, which is willing to end Sarkozy's blockade of Turkey.
No doubt, this was quite a surprising proposal, since the choice of the chapter on economic and monetary union is no longer among Turkey's priorities. The economic crisis in Europe proved how the monetary union might be a fetter for the economies that have weak competitive strength. Giving up the use of depreciation of the national currency as competition tool when necessary obliges proceeding to the horrible internal devaluations. Nowadays, no one wants to rapidly enlarge the monetary union to other EU members, and it is even discussed to reorganize the monetary union by restricting it. I am quite sure that if Turkey becomes an EU member one day it will prefer to remain outside of the eurozone for years.
That said, there is also a second reason that Minister Bozkır's proposal was rather strange. Turkey complies with the Maastricht Criteria with respect to public finances. Its budget deficit is well below the fateful 3 percent and its public debt ratio well below 60 percent. However, this situation is just the opposite concerning price stability. Even the inflation target of 5 percent is much higher than EU average. The negotiation of the 17th chapter would oblige Turkey to target inflation much lower than 5 percent and this is absolutely out of the question for a long time in the future.
Note: This article is published in Todays' Zaman October 14