01 Dec 2004

Growth and Immigration Scenarios for Turkey and the EU

Refik Erzan / Umut Kuzubas / Nilufer Yildiz

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EU-Turkey Working Paper No. 13, 16 pages

In the debate about Turkish EU membership and free movement of labour it is often overlooked that the EU cannot exercise a zero migration policy even if permanent safeguards were used. Even under the currently prevailing strict regime, there is an annual net migration from Turkey to the EU-15 in the order of 35,000 people. Any slowdown or suspension in Turkey’s accession process is likely to lead lower growth and higher unemployment in Turkey. Moreover, the reform process might slow down or be partially reversed. The consequence of such a combination would be drastically higher number of potential migrants. A considerable proportion of them would be finding their way into the EU – as experience has shown irrespective of legal restriction. It is thus possible that if Turkey loses the membership perspective, the EU may end up having more immigrants than under a free movement of labour regime with a prosperous EU member Turkey. Moreover, the composition of this migration would be less conducive for the EU labour markets – and – for integration in the host societies.
The experiences of Greece, Portugal and Spain indicate that a successful accession period with high growth and effective implementation of the reforms reduces and gradually eliminates the migration pressures. There is no a priori reason why Turkey would not go through a similar experience.