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Turkey in a week, September 3rd 2018

In the midst of its political and economic turmoil, Turkey tries to turn its face once again to EU in efforts to find an alternative partner for USA. Even though President Erdoğan pragmatically repeats that Turkey will not give up on goal joining up the European Union (EU), he has repeatedly blamed EU countries for supporting terrorists and using double standards against Turkey. He even said that Turkey does not need EU on October 13, 2017 after the diplomatic crisis with the Netherlands. Moreover, The European Commission’s accession progress report in April stated that “Turkey has made big steps away from the EU,” and concluded that “under the current circumstances, it’s unthinkable to open up new [accession] chapters,” as Turkey has taken significant steps backward in the areas of justice, public administrative reform, fundamental rights and freedom of expression. 2-years long state of emergency was important part of this harsh report which was lifted in July after the elections and replaced with the regulations which will be in effect for three years granting the government very similar privileges the state of emergency provides.

However, unremitting political crisis with USA forced Turkey to warm relations with EU. President Erdoğan had phone calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak had meetings with his German and French counterparts. On Aug. 27, Macron said, “Today’s Turkey is no longer Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Turkey… Turkey is confirming its pan-Islamic agenda every day, which seems against Europe,” Labelling Russia and Turkey merely as Europe’s “strategic partners”, he said Turkey cannot be a member of the EU. According to Hilal Köylü’s piece on Halagazeteciyiz, Turkey’s efforts to renew ties with EU will not be as easy as pro-goverment media suggests. Macron, in his statement on Elysee’s vision on foreign policy and opinions on EU’s security, had argued that the EU’s security should not be entrusted to the US and also suggested that the security measures should have been reconsidered in deliberation with Russia and the EU partner countries. Macron, emphasizing the need for reassasment of the relations with Russia and Turkey, had maintained that, in the face of recurrent evidence of Erdoğan’s ‘pan islamist’ agenda, it was a must for the relations with Turkey to be reexamined. This is not the first time Macron reveals his negative thoughts on Turkey. French President told President Erdogan that there is no chance of progress towards Turkey joining the European Union. At a joint news conference in Paris, Macron said there were differences over human rights since Turkey’s purges following a failed coup in 2016 at the beginning of this year.

While sharp depreciation of Turkish Lira (92% depreciation in 2018) is increasing the cost of servicing private debt, the postponed rises in prices of goods such as oil, electricity and gas due to elections come one after the other as Turkish Lira’s depreciation continues. Private firms also started to reflect the cost of currency depreciation to their consumer prices just after the long religious holiday as Turkish producers are heavily dependent on imported goods. The government declared that they watch the markets closely, and there will be investigations against “abnormal price hikes”.

Only positive news on the economic front came from the trade data. Turkey’s foreign trade deficit in August fell 58 percent on a yearly basis. Sharp decline in imports by 22.4 percent to $14.8 billion and limited increase in exports due to 9 days holiday helped this result. However, economists warn that decline in imports two months in a row also suggests that Turkish economy is shrinking as production is heavily dependent on imported goods as mentioned before.

Turkey started to import meat from several countries as meat prices have been in rise for a long time. Actually, once an agriculturally self-sufficient country, AKP government started to import several agricultural products to control food inflation last year. However, there have been several reports suggesting that the health checks on these imported food products, especially products are not done properly. Hence, now Turkey is alarmed by anthrax suspicion as the third case have been surfaced. One facility in Istanbul’s Silivri district has been quarantined after six people were admitted to a hospital over suspicions they were infected with anthrax, following similar cases in Ankara and the eastern province of Sivas. Authorities detected that 4,000 cattle imported from Brazil to Turkey’s Meat and Milk Institution were infected with anthrax.

Turkey banned the peaceful sitting protest of “Saturday Mothers” at their 700th meeting. Saturday Mothers have been campaigning for disappearances of their children since 1995.

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