Turkey: Securing Stability in a Rough Neighborhood
After suffering years of volatility and crises, Turkey desperately sought macroeconomic and political stability in an ever-worsening region of the world. In the short term, Turkey had to repay its debt, which amounted to more than 80% of GDP. By January 2004, Turkey had entered the final stages of the IMF's latest $17 billion loan program. Each review required that Turkey meet specific goals of monetary control (e.g., reducing inflation), restructuring the banking sector, reforming the public sector, and increasing privatization. The country's long-term goal, joining the European Union, would be reached only if the EU's required criteria were met. Elected in November 2002 and the first absolute majority in Parliament in 15 years, the AKP party promised to meet both IMF and EU requirements. Although his AKP party had Islamic roots, Prime Minister Erdogan planned to prove that Turkey was a stable, secular democracy. After Turkey met the EU's requirements, the question remained: Would the EU's "Christian club" accept a Muslim Turkey?