|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||21/12/95, Volume 1, Number 14|
WHEN Dr Tansu Çiller goes into battle in Turkey's general elections this weekend, she will carry the newly-won customs union with the EU as her sword.
After the European Parliament put the final seal of approval on the customs union last week Çiller instantly turned it into an election tool. When she received the news via mobile phone in front of 1,500 people during a campaign rally in Istanbul, she relayed it to the cheering crowd, saying: “Now we have begun a national struggle on the road to full membership of the European Union.”
Loudspeakers blared the news from an election bus driving around the city which was once the sight of European crusades against the Muslim world. In Izmir, the central square was decked with EU flags with a map of Turkey nesting among the stars.
Western diplomats and some Turkish politicians have said approval of the customs union will help Çiller's campaign. But already Turks are starting to react against the trade deal for which she has fought so hard.
Customs union has become a real election issue, with Çiller's main opponent denouncing it as a 'rag and bone deal' that will keep Turks impoverished. The leader of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) has said that if he were elected, he would abolish the union and replace it with an Islamic common market.
While importers and exporters may vote for Çiller as the customs union champion, other taxpayers are wary of the trade pact's disadvantages. When Turkey tears down its high import duties, the government will lose a large revenue source. For instance, the purchaser of a European car brought into Turkey will no longer pay a huge 75&percent; import tax, but one closer to 15&percent;. Treasury coffers will lose an estimated 3 billion ecu on the two-way trade between the EU and Turkey, which totalled nearly 15 billion ecu last year, because of the removal of customs tariffs. Many middle-class Turks fear they will be asked to make up the difference through higher taxes.
“Turks are not stupid,” said one Turkish citizen living in Belgium. “Çiller's European policies have already made the poor poorer and have increased social inequality.”
The government's failure to stop spiralling inflation and ease spreading poverty are also costing Çiller votes. Her unpopular 1994 austerity plan was in part destined to fight domestic problems and in part designed to make Turkey more attractive to EU officials judging the country's eligibility for customs union.
Çiller is also fighting off accusations of financial scandal, including allegations that she has personally bought a multi-million-dollar American supermarket and a hotel in Miami, Florida, and has plans to build a tourist development on national park land in Turkey. Parliamentary questions on the scandals, which are the subject of several cases currently before Turkish courts, have received evasive answers from Çiller, Turkish newspapers say.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations, Trade|
|Countries / Regions||Turkey|