The 22nd Chapter on Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments, to be opened to negotiations at the Inter-governmental Conference in Brussels on Tuesday, will brace Turkey for active use of European Union (EU) funds which will be provided to remove regional development differences after the accession.
Regional differences escalated in the EU with the last enlargement and increased the importance of its Regional Policy. As a candidate country, Turkey has been receiving Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) funds since 2007 so as to prepare the necessary administrative and corporate structure to use the funds after membership, which functioned as a practice for Turkey's negotiations on Chapter 22.
Teresa Reeves, Financial Coordinator of the EU Delegation to Turkey, told AA that under the IPA, EU funds for regional development had been concentrating on projects to improve the environment (waste water treatment plants, drinking water and solid waste management), support the transport sector and encourage regional competitiveness, particularly in some of the less developed regions.
Discussions are currently under way with Turkish authorities for the next funding and programming period covering 2014-2012, added Reeves.
- Polish example -
Poland was shown as an example country to shed light on Turkey's negotiations on Chapter 22 through its own experience.
Professor Piotr Zientara from Poland's Gdansk University said, "In Poland and elsewhere, regional development is an ongoing process and will take years." He added that EU money spent for infrastructure projects like roads, airports and railways was of great help.
Stating that there were, as in Poland, marked disparities in Turkey between the western provinces and eastern regions, Zientara said, "I believe that, like in Poland, it will also take years to reduce them. But EU funds can help ordinary people by improving the quality of everyday life. Better roads, new sewage systems and water treatment plants also improve the quality of municipal services. Well, that is the point of EU assistance."
- "Turkey should not rely only on funds"
Despite their positive impact on regional development, EU regional funds do not guarantee the diminishing of regional development disparities. The candidate country needs to develop indigenous policies based on actual problems.
Samuel Doveri Vesterbye, Turkey expert at BBA Consulting and board-member of Young Friends of Turkey, told AA that the new opening of Chapter 22 would have an enormous effect on the Turkish accession process, both politically, as well as economically.
But he added, "Candidate countries prepare clear plans and institutions for the allocation of funds and how they will manage regional influx, at the end, it’s up to the candidate country itself to allocate these funds."
Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that a number of countries had received regional funds from the EU which, in many cases, had been substantial. He noted, "The evidence is that such funds are not especially helpful in promoting economic growth. For economic growth, countries need good home-grown policies. Ireland is a very good example of this. Ireland was very poor during the 1970s. It was not the receipt of regional funds which helped Ireland - though they were plentiful - but major policy changes in the late 1980s."
However, in other countries, poor regions have remained very poor despite receiving large amounts of regional aid from the EU, Booth also said.
Speaking of the Greek example, Professor Dimitris Kallioras of Thesally University said that Greece had been a major beneficiary of the EU’s regional policies and regional issues were not at the top of the EU’s policy agenda until after Greece’s entry.
The professor said more serious policy discussions about regional disparities began to take place after Greece’s accession, given that the new country’s living standards were well below the EU average.
Kallioris emphasized that while funds had a positive effect on Greece’s growth, regional inequalities had not been reduced significantly.
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