Turkey-EU Relations-2, Speech delivered in the “Real Instituto Elcano”, Madrid, 11 May, 2006

TURKEY-EU RELATIONS

TEXT OF THE SPEECH

delivered by

YAŞAR YAKIŞ

Chairman of the European Union Commission in the Turkish Parliament

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Real Instituto Elcano”

Madrid, 11 May 2006

              

            Distinguished colleagues,

            It is a great pleasure for me to address members of the Elcano Royal Institute.

            Turkey and Spain are at the opposite ends of the Mediterranean, but the common values that we share are making us very close. Both countries had a rich history.

Our countries faced various difficulties and challenges in their history. But today I am glad to say that Turkey and Spain share common universal values and contribute to the worldwide promotion of these values.

            Today, our countries have a special responsibility to International Community.

            Especially after the horrible attacks to various American targets on the 9/11 in 2001 unleashed the mutual misunderstanding and mistrust to grow between the Islamic and Christian worlds.

            It is clear that unless we take the necessary measures rapidly, we will have to face new and even more challenging crises in the future.

            In this regard, the Alliance of Civilizations initiative co-chaired by Turkey and Spain is certainly one of the most relevant means available to us with a view to promoting dialogue and harmony.

            Today I want to give information regarding Turkey-EU relations that have almost 50 years past. In this regard, I want to emphasize the political and strategic benefits as well as the cultural depth and breadth that Turkish membership will bring to the European Union.

At the outset, I want to extend our sincere thanks to the authorities of Spain and the Spanish people for their support that they extended to our accession process to the EU.

I will be very brief in my presentation and then I will be happy to answer your questions.

A quick look at the past of Turkey-EU relations will be useful to understand Turkey-EU relations.

Major milestones in Turkey’s accession process to the EU

Major milestones in Turkey’s relations with EU are as follows:

–         Turkey first applied to the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1959, shortly after the establishment of the Community.

–         An Association Agreement with the EEC is signed in 1963. This Agreement envisaged Turkey’s full membership after three stages, namely preparation, transition and final stages.

–         Turkey applied for full membership of the EU in 1987.

–         A Customs Union is established between Turkey and the EU in 1996.

–         During the EU Council held in Helsinki in December 1999, Turkey is designated as a “candidate State destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria as applied to other candidate States”.

–         The Copenhagen EU Council decided in December 2002 that “if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay”.

–         On the 6th of October the EU Commission issued its regular Progress Report on Turkey. It pointed out in this Report;

a)      that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the

       Copenhagen political criteria; and

b)      that it recommends to start accession

      negotiations without  undue delays

–         On 17 December 2004, the EU Council decided to start accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005.

–         Accession negotiations began on 3 October 2005

This relatively long history of Turkish-EU relations indicates that Turkey’s accession to the EU is not a subject that came out of the blue and all of sudden. It is the result of a long, laborious and protracted negotiations and preparation.

 A new period has started in Turkey-EU relations with the accession negotiations.

Following the decision on the 3rd of October to open accession negotiations, we have concentrated on the one hand on the screening process and on the other hand continued with determination our reform process.

The screening process of Turkey, which has started on 20 October 2005, continues and we have completed the explanatory screening in 18 chapters.

Starting of the accession negotiations has also provided momentum to our reform process. On the 10th of April, the Turkish Government announced that a new package of draft bills is submitted to the parliament. It is called the 9th reform package and includes amendments in various laws to make them more compatible with the EU acquis.

Distinguished colleagues,

Turkey does not ask a favour from the EU. It does not ask to be treated in a privileged manner. All what it wishes is not to be subjected to a discriminatory treatment. Turkey wants to be treated on equal footing with other countries that joined the EU in the past. The rules of the game should not be changed after the game starts.

In recent weeks, certain member countries of the EU made an attempt in the COREPER to introduce a new concept called horizontal linkage between various chapters of negotiations. We are happy to see that it was finally agreed not to make any reference to this new concept in the letter to be sent to Turkey to invite it to draft its negotiation position under the chapter in question. However, the discussion that took place on this subject in the COREPER will be reflected in an internal paper. This is an unfortunate indication that the subject could be raised again during the discussion of one of the subsequent chapters.

Turkey believes that every chapter has to be considered as an autonomous subject and that it should not be linked to the criteria contained in other chapters. Otherwise, the wisdom of dividing the accession negotiations into chapters will be negated.

Distinguished colleagues,

Before mentioning possible contributions of Turkey’s membership to the EU, let me emphasize that Turkey has made giant strides in meeting Copenhagen political criteria for the last three years. Reforms have been introduced in various fields.

The purpose of the reform process is to upgrade democracy and human right standards by aligning the Turkish legislation and implementation with the European norms.

Possible contributions of Turkey’s membership to the EU

–         Turkey’s membership will help strengthen the EU’s role as a global actor.

–         Turkey’s membership will contribute to the rapprochement between the West and the East and will help extend modern values in regions neighbouring Turkey.

–         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.

–         Once Turkey becomes a member of the EU, it will be able to contribute much more to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.

–         Turkey is the sixteenth biggest economy in the world in 2005. Therefore, Turkey’s accession will increase   the economic size of the EU.

–         Full membership of Turkey to the EU will perform a critical role in protecting EU’s strategic interests regarding European energy supply security.

–         Turkey’s EU membership will lead EU firms to gain an advantageous position in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Markets.

–         Turkey’s young population will perform a vital role in sustaining economic dynamism in the EU.

–         Turkey’s EU membership will bring advantages to the EU within the realm of the extension of Trans-European Networks.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished guests,

I want to stop here in order    to answer your questions.

Thank you for your attention.

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