ANKARA – Turkey’s wider neighborhood is engulfed in crises. To its east lie political instability, civil war, and terrorism, while its neighbors to the west are struggling to regain their financial footing, following an economic collapse nearly on the scale of the Great Depression. In the midst of all this turmoil, Turkey represents an island of peace, democracy, security, and stability – something that the European Union should keep in mind when considering the current paralysis in accession talks.
Over the last decade, the Turkish government has overseen a social and economic transformation, in which millions of people have moved into the middle class. A recent report by the World Bank, highlighting the steady growth that has brought Turkey to the threshold of high-income status, describes the country’s progress as socially inclusive: Poverty has been reduced by more than half, and access to high-quality health, education, and municipal services has expanded.
Indeed, since 2009, the Turkish economy has created four million new jobs, many of which require highly skilled workers. This has sharply reduced the gaps in the quality of health services and education both within the country and between it and other OECD members.
Moreover, Turkey is among the fastest-improving countries with respect to the quality of its infrastructure, including transport, telecommunications, and energy. And, during the 2008 global financial crisis, Turkey was the only OECD country that did not need to inject any public funds into its banks.