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Turkey’s New Course

CHICAGO – Turkey has recently been at the forefront of international economic and political debates. On the one hand, despite the economic crisis engulfing neighboring Europe, Turkey remains the world’s second-fastest growing economy, after China. On the other hand, there is almost no issue on the global agenda – from Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia, Iran, and the Arab Spring, and from sustainable development to a dialogue among civilizations – on which Turkey is not playing a visible role.

This is a rather new phenomenon. Until a decade ago, Turkey was regarded as no more than a staunch NATO ally. That began to change in 2002, when an era of political stability dawned, giving rise to a vision for a stronger Turkey – and a firm commitment to realizing that vision.

To this end, Turkey’s governments since 2002 implemented bold economic reforms that paved the way for sustainable growth and provided a firewall against the financial crisis that hit in 2008. As a result, in less than a decade, GDP has tripled, making Turkey the world’s 16th largest economy. Moreover, the country benefits from strong public finances, prudent monetary policy, sustainable debt dynamics, a sound banking system, and well-functioning credit markets.

At the same time, we expanded the scope of individual rights, which had long been subordinated to security concerns. We streamlined civil-military relations, guaranteed social and cultural rights, and attended to the problems of ethnic and religious minorities. These reforms transformed Turkey into a vibrant democracy and a more stable society, at peace with itself and able to view its external environment in a different light.