International Relations and Prospects for Turkey, London, 19 November 2004


Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, London, 19 November 2004


Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address such a distinguished audience. I believe that the majority of the guests here present are more interested in the economic situation in Turkey. The economic subjects will be not be dealt with by me but by very eminent economists who came all the way from Turkey for this particular purpose.

In my part of the programme, I will focus on the relations between Turkey and the EU. I will start with the possible contributions that Turkey may bring in the EU when it becomes a member of it. I will divide this chapter into three sections: geographical, geo-strategic and demographic standpoints. Then, I will say where we stand at present in Turkey’s relations with the EU and will conclude by voicing our expectation from the EU.


First the geography. Turkey’s geographical location is important for the West both for economic and strategic reasons.

            Economically, it controls the land and sea routes between various centres of gravity in the Eurasian land mass. The sea routes linking the Black Sea basin countries to the “warm seas” go through the Turkish Straits. These countries are Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Georgia and also other countries like Armenia and Azerbaijan that use Black Sea as their main sea outlet.

            Anatolian land mass on which Turkey is situated constitutes a natural bridge between the countries of the entire Middle East and Asia on the one hand and Europe on the other. This land mass links also Europe to the region rich in energy sources. The most economical route for the energy sources of the Caspian Sea goes again through Turkey. The countries rich in oil and gas reserves of this region are Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Iran.

            An oil pipeline is under construction between the Azeri capital Bakou and the Turkish Mediterranean Sea outlet of Ceyhan. The pipeline will become operational in 2005.

            The most economical route for the pipeline to transport natural gas from Middle-Eastern countries such as Iraq, Syria and Egypt goes again through Turkey. Several gas pipelines are already operational between Turkey and Russian Federation and Iran. Contacts are in an advanced stage for the construction of gas pipelines with other countries such as Turkmenistan, Syria and Egypt.

            An Agreement is signed between Turkey and Greece in 2003 for the transport of natural gas to Greece and from there to Italy. It will start with the purchase of 750 million cubic meters of gas per year (750 MCUM/y) and will reach 11 BCUM/y in 2012. 8 BCUM/y of this will go from Greece to Italy.

            Another pipeline project envisages the transport of natural gas from Turkey to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, to be extended later to Slovak and Czech Republics.  Half of the feasibility studies of this project are financed by the EU.

            When Turkey becomes a member of the EU, all of these strong geographical assets will be part of the EU.


Turkey is also important for the EU from the geo-strategic standpoint. There are 15 hot spots in the world identified by NATO as a potential threat to the security of the alliance. 13 of these 15 spots are located in the immediate neighbourhood of Turkey or in areas where Turkey has a presence. These are the Balkans, Middle East, Caucasus and the Central Asia. I do not want to imply that the EU cannot assert its presence in these areas without cooperating with Turkey. But with Turkey’s cooperation these goals could be achieved more easily, with less acrimony and with less financial and human resources. The Iraqi war is a concrete example of this.

The EU is an economic giant. It will grow even bigger in the future. The economic power may not always be sufficient for the EU to assert itself in the worldwide power balance. Taking this into consideration, the EU developed two new concepts: One of them is called “A Secure Europe in a Better World”and the other “Wider Europe-Neighbourhood”. Both of these new strategies put great emphasis on the importance of the Southern periphery of the European security. They stress the need to project stability into the continent’s neighbourhood. Turkey could contribute to a great extent to the fulfilment of this goal.

            There is a group composed of eminent European Statesmen that calls itself “Independent Group on Turkey”. It is chaired by Mr. Ahtisaari, former President of the Republic of Finland and includes former Prime Ministers and Ministers of Foreign Affairs from various EU countries. Here is what the group says, on this particular subject. in its Report under the title of “Turkey in Europe”:

I quote:  “Due to its geo-strategic position, Turkey would add new dimensions to the EU’s foreign policy efforts in such vitally important regions as the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Central Asia and South Caucasus”. Unquote.

            On the core issue in the Middle East, namely Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the EU could not play, so far, a role commensurate with its size and weight. Turkey enjoys good relations both with the Palestinians and the Israelis. The EU, with Turkey as a member, may assume more active role in this decades old thorny issue.

            Turkey has played a constructive role within the framework of the Common Foreign ard Security Policy (CDSP). It has done so by positioning its foreign and security policy in line with that of the European Union. This was acknowledged by the EU Commission Report of 2003.

            Furthermore it has contributed, within the framework of NATO, to the work on the European Security and Defence Policy (EDSP) andcooperated very actively with the EU countries and international community for the peacekeeping missions in the Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Somalia and Afghanistan. It assumed the leadership roles for the international force in Somalia and Afghanistan. Turkey is part of the comprehensive agreement reached between EU and NATO for the military crisis management.

            With all this wide experience gained in its cooperation with the EU countries, Turkey could bring valuable contribution to the work to be assumed, in the future, by the EU in new crisis areas.

          Is Islam an Impediment?

Turkey is a country with a predominantly Muslim population. But it is also a secular country. Secularity in Turkey is not only a principle enshrined in the Constitution and forgotten there. It is properly grasped and digested by the Turkish people. Democratic institutions function properly. These unique features make Turkey a special case in the Islamic world. Turkey’s accession to the EU will give to the Islamic world the message that democracy and Islam are not incompatible and the EU is not closed to countries of others faiths if they comply with the required standards.

Turkey’s membership in the European Union will be a symbol of harmonious co-existence of cultures, and enriching the spiritual fabric of the European Union. If the EU gives the impression that it is a Christian Club, this will give a pretext to the fundamentalist organizations to claim that the EU excludes non-Christians and that the world is divided on the basis of the religious fault lines. Such a scenario will look like a reconfirmation of the theory of the Clash of the Civilizations developed by Huntington. I believe that this theory is detrimental to peace and stability in the world. Experience of 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq suggests that the Clash of the Civilizations does not make the world more secure.


Now I turn Turkey’s own resources. Turkey’s population is a little above 70 million inhabitants. Some EU countries are trying to present this big size of population as a potential threat for their labour market. They fear that unemployed Turks will encroach EU labour markets when Turkey becomes a full member. For this reason, they propose to introduce permanent safeguards to ban Turkish workers from entering EU markets.

            Turkey believes that permanent safeguards are in flagrant contradiction with basic philosophy of the EU and with the provisions of the article 4 of the EU Constitution, which provides that “Free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and freedom of establishment shall be guaranteed within and by the Union…”

Notwithstanding this important fact, Turkey believes that such a problem will not arise in the first place. The worries of the countries that fear an encroachment of Turkish workers will dissipate as the negotiations will unfold. The momentum to be generated by the accession negotiations will promote both foreign and domestic investments in Turkey and this will absorb the unemployed labour of the country. This is what happened when Spain, Portugal and Poland joined the EU. Independent surveys published on this subject forecast that the EU member countries may have to encourage the immigration of Turkish workers into their countries rather than stop it. The problem of the aging population of EU confirms this forecast.

The age group 0 to15 years old constitute in the EU countries less than 17 % of the entire population. This figure is above 30 % in Turkey. This difference in favour of Turkey will become all the more marked 20 years later, in the year 2025, because this age group will be between 20 and 35 years old at that time, that is to say the most reproductive age.

Independent surveys forecast that from 2007 onwards, because of the aging population, the EU economies will need roughly 3.4 million additional workers per year.  Turkey could meet this requirement without putting a pressure either on Turkey’s economy or on EU economies.

            The chapter on demography will not be complete if I do not mention that more than 70 million inhabitants are also a huge market. It is a market that equals the population of 10 new member countries combined. After Turkey becomes a member of the EU, this market will be wide open to the industries of the EU countries.

            Turkey-EU relations 

            I now turn to the relations between Turkey and the EU. The EU Commission issued on the 6th of October 2004 its regular Progress Report and Recommendation on Turkey. This Recommendation is more important for Turkey than the previous ones. Perhaps it is the most important, because, in the EU Summit decision of 12 December 2002, it was pointed out that the decision to start the accession negotiations with Turkey was linked to the content of this Recommendation. The exact wording of the Summit decision was as follows:

If the EU Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen criteria, the EU will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay

Now, with the Progress Report and Recommendation issued on 6 October 2004, the EU Commission points out that Turkey fulfils the political criteria and it recommends that the accession negotiations be opened.

The Report includes several points that are discriminatory against Turkey. I will simply mention some of them briefly without dwelling on them in detail, because they do not have any meaningful effect on the developments in practice.

Open-ended negotiations

One of them is a reference made in the Recommendation to the open-ended nature of the negotiations. In fact, it points out that the negotiations process “is open-ended and that the outcome cannot be guaranteed beforehand”.

Of course, any negotiation is open-ended by definition. One cannot take it for granted that, once started, it will be concluded successfully. In the Recommendation on the United Kingdom it was not mentioned that the negotiations might end up with failure, however UK’s membership was vetoed by a member country on two occasions and only on the third occasion it ended up successfully.

In other words, whether it is mentioned in the Progress Report or not, it may end up with failure. Therefore, it was neither necessary nor appropriate to mention it in the Report on Turkey. In fact, it was not mentioned so far in the Progress Report of any other candidate country. We believe that this discriminatory attitude is unfair.

Suspension of the negotiations

Second point is the reference to the fact that the accession negotiations could be suspended “in case of serious and persistent breach (by Turkey) of principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law on which the EU is founded”.

This is again a principle that goes without saying. When the circumstances warrant, the accession negotiations could be suspended even if there was no reference to such a precondition in the Recommendation. In the past, the negotiations with a candidate country came to the threshold of a suspension despite the fact that there was no reference to such an eventuality in the Recommendation.

Actually the Commission made a mistake by citing the circumstances in which the negotiations will be suspended with Turkey, implying that they cannot be suspended in cases other than the ones mentioned in this paragraph. This wording suggests that it was hastily added to the Report at the last moment.

 This is another discriminatory attitude against Turkey, because such a reference does not exist in the Recommendation of other candidate countries. The Turkish public opinion believes that this is not fair.

Privileged membership status

The CDU-CSU group in Germany came up with a new idea to give Turkey a privileged membership status. Some political parties in France supported this idea. Turkey fails to understand what this proposal exactly means, since there is no such as status envisaged in the EU Constitution.

Furthermore Turkey has an Association agreement with the EU since 1963 and a customs’ union since 1996. More than that could be only full membership.

Mr. Joschka Fischer, Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany said that this idea looks like proposing Turkey extramarital relations.

It is totally unacceptable to Turkey. No government in Turkey could convince Turkish public accept such a status.

Other discriminatory references 

There are other references in the Recommendations that do not exist in the Recommendations of other candidate countries, such as:

–                          The Commission suggests that benchmarks should be introduced for the opening of various chapters of the accession negotiations with Turkey;

–                          Turkey should have a functioning market economy in order to open certain economic chapters;

–                          Some existing difficulties stemming from the customs’ union have to be overcome before the chapter on the customs’ union be opened;

–                          Financial issues should be opened only after the 2014 budget discussions start. 

None of the above preconditions are mentioned in the Recommendation of other candidate countries. 

We believe that, by making such references, the Commission is giving the member states food for thought, rather than a definite suggestion. Turkey finds it both premature and unnecessary to pre-empt what will be agreed upon during the negotiation process.

Thus, Turkey expects that member states will not take any further action, at this stage, on these suggestions and leave these issues to be settled through negotiations.

Despite these unnecessary references, Turkey does not want to get entangled with side issues and lose sight of the main target. The main target is to start the accession negotiations and to conclude them within a reasonable period.

Turkey is tired of being faced with new preconditions. It therefore expects that, at this final stage before the start of accession negotiations, member countries will avoid being trapped again in the domestic or local political considerations and will not miss this chance of serving the interests of a stronger Europe.

I thank you all for your attention.

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