Accession of Turkey to the EU, Economic Forum, Krynica,(Poland), 8 September 2005


Krynica (Poland), 7-10 September 2005

I will confine my intervention to the liveliest headlines on Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU), because many aspects of this question have already been debated at length in various fora. If there are subjects that the distinguished participants of this forum are interested in, I will do my best to elaborate on them during the question and answer period.

 The negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the EU are scheduled to start on the 3rd of October 2005. This decision was taken unanimously at the EU Summit held on 17 December 2004. During the same Summit, Turkey committed itself to extend to the new 10 members of the EU a customs’ Protocol that it had signed previously with the earlier members of the EU. The extension of this Protocol was an obligation that stemmed from the Association Agreement signed in 1963 between Turkey and the then European Economic Community and from the ensuing Customs’ Union between Turkey and the EU.  Turkey fulfilled this commitment on 29 July 2005, thus removing the last remaining hurdle for the start of the accession negotiations.

 However the question of Turkey’s accession is used in certain EU countries as a material for domestic political consumption. This question could be discussed more soberly when it is not mixed up with other irrelevant subjects.

In France, the government questions the unilateral statement made by Turkey regarding the official recognition of Cyprus. In the said statement Turkey pointed out that the extension of the customs’ protocol to 10 new members of the EU does not imply the official recognition of Cyprus. France says that it will raise this question during the meeting where the “Framework for Negotiations with Turkey” will be discussed.

Here is the background of this subject:

The Secretary General of the United Nations drafted a Plan to solve the Cyprus conflict. This plan proposes the establishment of a re-united Cyprus composed of the Turkish and Greek parts of the Island. The Plan was to be submitted to simultaneous referenda to be held on 24 April 2004 both in the Northern and Southern parts of Cyprus. The same Plan was also supported by the EU. The EU not only supported the Plan, but also asked the mainland Turkey to encourage Turkish Cypriots to vote in favour of this Plan. The political leadership in Turkey took a bold step and decided to fulfil this request of the EU. This was a bold step, because majority of Turkey’s public opinion believed that the Annan Plan was not balanced and that it gave too much to the Greek side. However, for the sake of peace, supporting the plan looked, at that time, as the lesser of two evils and political leadership in Turkey encouraged Turkish Cypriots to vote in favour of the Plan.

Upon Turkey’s encouragement, Turkish Cypriots voted in favour of the Annan Plan and the Greek Cypriots voted against it. The irony is that the side that rejected the Plan joined the EU, and the side that voted in favour of the Plan is left out of the EU. Now some members of the EU step back from the initial position of the EU and ask Turkey to recognize a Cyprus different from the one that is proposed in the Annan Plan. Turkey believes that, if the EU wants to maintain its credibility, it has to stick to the position that it held before the Cyprus referenda and use its efforts to secure the approval of the Annan Plan by the Greek Cypriots.

Turkey will demonstrate that it is a serious State by recognizing Cyprus when it is re-united under the terms of the Annan Plan, but not before that.

In Germany, CDU leader Angela Merkel says that she will not oppose the start of the accession negotiations with Turkey but that she will propose, during the negotiations, a status called “privileged partnership” to be given to Turkey instead of full membership. This is a non-starter, because Turkey has already a privileged partnership status with the EU: It has a customs’ union with the EU. It has an association agreement since 1963. It is benefiting from various EU funds. More important than all these, Turkey is not willing to negotiate for such a status.

 The EU Summit of 17 December 2004 pointed out that Turkey should remain anchored to the Western structures in case its accession does not materialize. It is very generous of the EU to keep the door open to Turkey for such an arrangement. However, it is difficult to foretell what Turkey will decide once it is left out of the EU. Most probably, like any reasonable State, Turkey will reassess all options that it has at that time and decide accordingly.

None of these questions need to be discussed at this point in time, because the accession negotiations with Turkey will most probably be a lengthy process. The political parties that advocate the foregoing views are in opposition both in France and Germany. The crown makes the King wiser. We will see how these political parties will assess the potential contribution of Turkey once they assume the responsibility of the government.

Furthermore, we do not know which political parties will be in power in various EU countries at the time Turkey will conclude the accession negotiations. There is no use in precluding plausible scenarios for the future. Turkey’s accession should be decided by the governments of the EU countries that will be in power when the accession negotiations will be concluded and by their people. The present governments should not take actions that will limit the freedom of action of the future governments. The future governments should be allowed to assess the circumstances that will be prevailing at that time.

The EU needs time to reassess all implications of the rejection of the EU Constitution in the French and Dutch referenda. Turkey also needs time to adjust its legislation and implementation to the EU standards. Therefore it is not necessary to make assessments as if Turkey was to join the EU immediately.

If the governments of the member countries come up one after the other with new requirements to be fulfilled by Turkey either for the start or the continuation of the negotiations, the list of requirements will never be completed. The requirements that Turkey had to fulfil were contained in various Progress Reports drafted by the EU Commission since 1999. Turkey has fulfilled all of them and this was recognized by the EU Commission and the EU Council. Actually, it was as a result of this recognition that a date was fixed for the start of negotiations. The new requirements put forward by certain EU members look like changing the rules of the game after the game starts.

Furthermore, Turkey does not ask the EU to make a favour for it. We believe that Turkey is capable of making meaningful contribution to the EU as a member country. President Chirac of France is on the record for having said before the EU Summit of 17 December 2004 that, “if the EU contemplates to play a role in the international arena and if it does not want to remain as a free trade area, it will need Turkey as a member”. No other statement could explain Turkey’s potential contribution to the EU as eloquently as this. I believe that France will stick to this position throughout the negotiations.

Turkey’s exclusion from the EU is likely to harm the EU more than it will harm Turkey. And within the EU, the biggest losers will be Greece and the Greek Cypriots, because their bilateral problems with Turkey could be solved more easily within the EU framework. With Turkey remaining outside the EU this opportunity will be wasted.

I thank you for your attention.

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