ECB’s Nowotny Says Turkey’s Poverty Makes Joining EU Unrealistic

  • Turkish membership would lead to unsustainable aid: Nowotny
  • Austria’s relations with Turkey have deteriorated since coup

It’s unrealistic to imagine Turkey joining the European Union even in the long term because of the structure of its economy, regardless of concerns about its democratic shortcomings, Austria’s central bank governor Ewald Nowotny said.

Turkey’s size and its relative poverty compared with the EU means that membership could trigger unsustainable movements of people and funds, Nowotny told journalists in Alpbach, Austria. Pretending that membership is an option creates uncertainty that’s “problematic,” he said.

“If the economic situation is too unequal, an economic community can’t work,” said Nowotny, who is also a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council. “That would lead to problematic migration movements, and make transfer payments necessary to an extent that’s hardly manageable economically and politically. The bigger a candidate is, the bigger those problems are, and Turkey is an extreme case in this regard.”

Political relations between Austria and EU-aspirant Turkey have historically been fraught due to the strong influence on public opinion of the anti-immigrant Austrian Freedom Party. They took a turn for the worse after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan started to talk about reintroducing the death penalty following the failed military coup last month.

Too Big, Too Poor

Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has since called for ending Turkey’s EU accession talks and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz threatened to veto progress in the negotiations.

Turkey’s population will soon be bigger than Germany’s and would constitute 15 percent of the EU’s if it was a member. Its economic output, though, would be equivalent to just 4.4 percent of the EU’s and that isn’t going to change much in the future, Nowotny said.

“The consequence is that the option for membership isn’t realistic in the long term,” Nowotny said. “This doesn’t have to do with the Erdogan government, but with structural questions.”