The Tuesday conference of the European-Turkish Business Confederation (UNITEE), titled “Strengthening Women Entrepreneurship in the European Union,” featured deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, overseer of economic policy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) as head of its Economy Coordination Board (EKK), as well as three members of the EP and representatives from the European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) as speakers.
Putting an emphasis on Turkey's economic success story over the past decade, Babacan said his government was focused on steering economic progress by facilitating private business activities across the country, with only a regulatory involvement on the state's part. He stressed that in this framework supporting entrepreneurship remained a policy priority. “We want to see innovative and competitive enterprises that have a culture of cooperation in Turkey, and we want to see economic development through the private sector, which we actually already have,” he said, adding that particular incentives have been introduced specifically to support female entrepreneurship, such as affirmative action in loans from the state's coffers.
Speaker Isabelle Durant, member of the Greens/European Free Alliance at the EP, opened by saying that the “Turkish woman is a European woman,” and elaborated on the current state of women's entrepreneurship across the continent. “Only one in every 10 women becomes an entrepreneur against one in four for men. This is not because women have less entrepreneurial spirit than men. Women can actually reach very good positions, even higher positions than men, once they start [working]. They are much more creative than men and have the potential to run two, three tasks at a time,” she said.
UNITEE President Adem Kumcu agreed that women are underrepresented in the business world. “We should all work together to change this … and build a permanent and balanced economy. This is important for innovation and competition,” he said.
Europe's economic woes not a deterrent for Turkey
On Tuesday Babacan also attended a panel discussion titled “Time to Face Economic Realities: Challenges and Expectations for EU and Turkey” organized by the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) in the EU capital. He said Turkey is committed to becoming a full member of the union despite all the economic difficulties the bloc is experiencing today. “We face a particular question pretty frequently lately. People ask us if we are still interested in EU membership, given all the economic problems it has, and we tell them we are not only interested but are strongly committed to the full membership target,” he said.
Turkey began holding accession negotiations with the union in 2005, but over the past seven years could only provisionally close talks in one out of 35 chapters. Talks must be successfully concluded in all chapters before any candidate country's membership can be presented to a unanimous vote at the European Council, the highest decision-making body of the EU.
Most observers attribute the slow pace of negotiations to a lack of political will within the EU for Turkey's accession, coupled with a growing disinterest in membership within Turkey for membership after all that has happened. The recent leadership change in France, one of the most outspoken critics of Turkey's entry to the 27-member club, appears to have raised hopes for acceleration of the process, yet most commentators agree that it would be wrong to let that optimism shadow a number of contentious issues between the candidate country and the bloc, in particular member nations such as Germany, Austria and Greek Cyprus.