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The start of a painful journey

The approval of Turkey's candidature for EU membership is just the start of a decade-long process, much of which is likely to be painful, that is set to revolutionize the country's economy and society.

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AFTER A COURTSHIP of the European Union lasting 40 years, Turkey was formally dubbed a candidate country by the European Commission in December. Now it is looking towards greatly expanded foreign investment and aid. But it is also awakening to the harsh realities of preparation for EU membership that will intensify when accession negotiations begin on October 3.

The good news includes hopes that long-expected foreign investment and tens of billions of euros in European development aid will be forthcoming. More worrisome are a host of new rules associated with membership ranging from costly environmental standards to safer school buses and concerns that many Turkish enterprises will be hard pressed to compete in a fully integrated Europe.

A wholesale restructuring

"Arriving at the finish line to begin negotiations with the European Union, even if those talks are destined to take years, is an accomplishment whose meaning is hard to exaggerate," says Orhan Cakmak, an economist with the Turkish Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. "But it is also an event, when coupled with the end of high inflation and the opening of the economy to competition, that means a wholesale restructuring of the way of doing business and the way of thinking."

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