Spain should be regarded as a model for Turkey’s EU membership process, argues William Chislett, a researcher at the Royal Elcano Institute, a Spanish think tank, in a publication for the Turkish branch of the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation.
“Spain is a very good example of the tremendously positive impact that EU membership can have on a country if the appropriate policies are implemented in the economic field,” Chislett’s book asserts.
He admits, however, that this does not necessarily mean the Spanish model can be exported “or that one day Turkey will enjoy the same kind of success as Spain”. Indeed, he notes that Turkey is a “much poorer and more populous country than Spain, and so it starts from a relative disadvantage”.
Still, he asserts that Turkey and Spain have “much in common”. The book draws attention to the fact that both countries joined the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1961 as agricultural economies under state control. On top of this, they have “exported” hundreds of workers to Europe and have experienced culture wars between traditionalists and modernisers, the author points out.
One crucial difference, though, is that “Spaniards have a Catholic Christian background and Turks a Muslim one,” the book states.
Furthermore, Turkey’s path to Brussels is unique due to its size, relative underdevelopment and different culture, the author argues, which puts the country “in a category of its own”. Despite this, Chislett insists that Turkey can draw lessons from Spain’s experience.
Primary among these is “the need for unity among the political class during accession negotiations, to make EU membership a national goal at all levels of society,” Chislett argues. Turkey must also “keep economic reform in tandem as much as possible with political reform,” he maintains. Last but not least, the military must be “kept out of the political arena in the widest sense of the word,” the book states.
Chislett concludes on an optimistic note. “It should be remembered that no country accepted as a candidate for accession to the EU has ever, once negotiations were opened, been rejected by it,” he writes.