Recipe for a third term: stability and change through the EU accession process

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Turkish EU Affairs Minister Egemen Ba??? argues in an exclusive op-ed for EURACTIV that a third term for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an would herald a continuation of what he calls the government's "balance between stability and change".

This op-ed was sent exclusively to EURACTIV by Egemen Ba???, Turkey's minister of EU affairs and Chief Negotiator.

"This Sunday approximately 50 million Turkish citizens will go to polls to decide on the government that will carry Turkey to its objectives set for its centennial in 2023. This election is also a vote of confidence in the country's reform process, which has brought stability and change hand in hand for the last decade.

Taking the bitter lessons of one of the worst economic and financial crises of its history in 2001, Turkish economy has evolved through a structural transformation process. Turkey has restructured its financial system by establishing the necessary checks and balances.

Inflation rates fell to single digit levels for the first time for three decades. 'Anatolian tigers' boosted production, exports and employment all around the country. The Turkish economy has become Europe's fastest-growing sizeable economy. According to OECD forecasts, Turkey will be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050. The economic success is particularly striking at a time when EU members are muddling through financial crises.

The growth brought about socio-economic development affecting the daily lives of millions of Turks. The number of roads, hospitals and universities tripled. The quality of housing, health and education services improved significantly.

Meanwhile, Turkey has undertaken significant political reforms accompanying this socio-economic change, thanks to the EU process that acted as a democratic anchor. Change has never been easy; but Turkey has proven its capacity to change for the better using the EU accession process as a driving force.

With the aim of fulfilling the Copenhagen political criteria in order to secure the opening of accession negotiations back in 2005, Turkey took bold steps in a wide range of long-lasting issues from civilian-military relations to fundamental rights and freedoms. The government pressed ahead to tackle difficult questions, such as the Kurdish issue and minority rights, with determination. A vibrant civil society has flourished, contributing to a lively debate environment.

Even though Turkey has been facing political obstacles in its EU negotiation process, the government has continued to pursue political reforms. Last year, a constitutional amendment approved by referenda eradicated the remnants of the military constitution. It brought positive discrimination for women, children and the handicapped; and a constitutional guarantee on the protection of personal data. It boosted the independence of the judiciary.

The government announced its intention to prepare a constitution from scratch based on consensus right after the elections.

Coupled with economic stability and sociopolitical transformation, the country has now become a regional power and a source of inspiration for the Middle East, Balkans and the Mediterranean basin with its soft power.

A Turkey contributing to stability, prosperity, democracy and peace in the region has a brand new image all over the world. The Turkish brand is perceived through the Cannes-awarded films of the Turkish producer Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Istanbul's title of 'European Capital of Culture', the novels of Orhan Pamuk, the strikers of Real Madrid FC and the bid by a Turkish company to redesign New York cabs.

The recipe of the AK Party's success under the leadership of Prime Minister Erdo?an has been its accomplishment to keep the balance right between stability and change. That is why people from all walks of life have preferred the AK Party over other options for the last two parliamentary elections, two local elections and two referenda. Hopefully, Turkey will continue to transform with the power of stability for a third consecutive term."

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