Turkey-EU Relations: Negotiation Process, speech delivered in the Krynica Forum, Sopot (Poland), 5 December 2008 (Text annd Power Point)

TURKEY-EU RELATIONS: NEGOTIATION PPROCESS

Krynica Forum, Sopot (Poland), 5 December 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Participants,

            The relations between Turkey and the European Union constitute a process which expands through time and consists of different components. If we can assess this process lasting more than 40 years correctly, we can better understand the current situation. Keeping this in mind, I would like to present a resume of the Turkey-EU relations and then elaborate on certain issues and finally make an evaluation.

MAJOR MILESTONES OF THE ACCESSION PROCESS

–  Turkey applied to become a member of the then EEC in 1959.

– In 1963 Turkey signed an Association Treaty with the EEC to which it made its first application in 1959 following its establishment. This treaty envisages full membership of Turkey following preparation, transition and final phases.

– Turkey has applied for full membership to the EU in 1987.

– In 1996 the Customs Union was established between Turkey and the EU.

– In 1999 at the Helsinki EU Council Turkey’s status as a candidate for membership has been registered. Mutual commitments assumed and the programs implemented have accelerated the process and a new period has started.

– In 2002 at the Copenhagen EU Summit, it has been agreed that the accession negotiations would start, on condition that Turkey’s complying with the Copenhagen political criteria is accepted upon the recommendation of the Commission in the EU Summit of 2004.

– On 6 October 2004 in the Progress Report on Turkey, the EU Commission has declared its opinion that Turkey has sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria, thus recommending that the accession negotiations should start without delay.

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

– The accession negotiations have started in 2005, elevating the Turkey-EU relations to a different platform.

NEGOTIATION PROCESS:

            It may be helpful to remember the some aspects of the accession process which is rather technical and complicated. There are three phases undergone by the candidate countries: the screening process, the transition to negotiations and the negotiation process.

            For Turkey, the screening process has started on 20 October 2005 and it has been concluded on 13 October 2006. As a result of the screening process which has been concluded in a swift, efficient and successful manner, in less than one year, we have a comparative picture of the EU acquis and our national legislation.

            The Commission prepares its end report in each chapter when its screening has been completed. The EU Council has so far approved the end reports of the screening of 23 chapter and the letters of the Presidency regarding these chapters have been presented to Turkey.

            The decision to initiate the negotiation process requires unanimity of the EU Council. The Council may decide opening benchmarks to be implemented to proceed with the negotiations of the relevant chapter. If there is no opening benchmark envisaged, the candidate country is invited to present its negotiation position.

            Opening of the negotiations of each chapter is decided by the Intergovernmental Conference.

CHAPTERS OPENED TO NEGOTIATION SO FAR:

– Accession negotiations on chapter 25 “Science and Research” were opened and provisionally closed on 12 June 2006.

– Accession negotiations on chapter 20 “Enterprise and Industrial Policy” were opened on 29 March 2007.

– Accession negotiations on chapter 18 “Statistics” and chapter 32 “Financial Control” were opened on 26 June 2007.

– Accession negotiations on chapter 21 “Trans-European Networks” and chapter 28 “Consumer and Health Protection” were opened on 19 December 2007.

– Accession negotiations on chapter 6 “Company Law” and chapter 7 “Intellectual Property Law” were opened on 17 June 2008.

– Negotiation Position Papers on “Education and Training” and “Economic and Monetary Policy” have already been submitted to the EU Council and the finalization of the deliberations of the EU is expected.

– Efforts aiming at the opening of the chapter “Free Movement of Capital” and “Telecommunications and Info” during the presidency of France are under way.

Moreover, our expectation for the opening of the chapters “Energy”, “Education and Training” and “Economic and Monetary Policy” which have no benchmarks, has been brought forward to the attention of the French Presidency and the EU Commission.

SUSPENDED CHAPTERS

            1. Under the decision of Council of General Affairs and External Relations of 11 December 2006, the negotiations on the following eight chapters will not be initiated until Turkey fulfills its obligations arising from the Additional Protocol of Ankara Agreement.

–         Free movement of goods

–         Freedom to provide services

–         Financial control

–         Agriculture

–         Fisheries

–         Transport policy

–         Customs union

–         External relations

            Furthermore, in the remaining 25 chapters the negotiations may be initiated, but the fulfillment of the obligations stemming from the Additional Protocol will again be required.  The obligation referred to here is the opening of the Turkish ports and airports to the Greek Cypriot vessels.

            The Commission is tasked to monitor these obligations in the framework of the Progress Reports of 2007, 2008 and 2009. This decision has been approved by the declaration of the EU Summit of 14-15 December 2006.

            2. On the other hand, France has individually blocked the following five chapters under the pretext that they might lead to full membership. As the objective of the negotiations is obviously and naturally full membership, it is difficult to explain either the plain logic behind this move, or the motive.

–         Agriculture

–         Economic and monetary policy

–         Regional policy and coordination

–         Finance and budgetary provisions

–         Institutions

            This situation has not affected the determination of the Government regarding the EU reform process. The deliberations concerning the chapters have continued and the document envisaged as its roadmap for alignment with the EU acquis entitled “Turkey’s Program for Alignment with the Acquis (2007-2013)” has been released. The program consists of the calendar of primary and the secondary legislation to be adopted in the course of seven years in the context of alignment with the EU acquis for the accession and aims at bringing our society to the highest standards in every field.

REFORMS ACHIEVED

            So far the Parliament has adopted nine reform packages. These reforms are not only realized as a requirement of the EU accession process, but they also constitute a means for reaching the standards desired and deserved by the Turkish people. For that reason, even if there may be delays in the Turkey’s accession process, these reforms will continue. In other words, our EU full membership perspective has become a motivation and this has been reflected in the Government policy. In this context, reforms regarding public settlement, professional proficiency, social reform, public supervision, private education institutions and foundations have been realized.

CONCLUSİON:

Having reviewed the technical-chronological aspect, it is time to focus on other dimensions. Relations with EU are not solely formed and fashioned at technical negotiations. Sometimes, political issues such as the Council decision of Dec.11, 2006 on the implementation of Additional Protocol to Ankara Agreement also influence the negotiations, effect the bilateral relations and cause unnecessary loss of time and energy.

It is only through the fulfilment of the responsibilities by and mutual understanding of the parties that both the relations and the negotiations can be conducted successfully. The support of EU is vital for the reform process to be furthered. At this point, one has to touch upon the role played by the public opinion in both Turkey and of the EU members in the accession process.

It unfortunately is a fact that domestically motivated statements of some leaders of the member countries adversely affect the Turkish public opinion, diminish the credibility of EU and reduce the public support towards the Union. On the other hand, public opinion polls demonstrate the continuation of the support of Turkish public, however declined. Moreover, it should not be overlooked that the functionally important remarks, statements and decisions- those that carry weight- are made by official EU authorities, rather than individuals.

There are, obviously, some people and certain quarters that, for reasons of their own, are against Turkey’s full membership to the EU; not only in member countries, but in Turkey as well. In the first place, it is a basic requirement of democratic culture to regard this as normal, ordinary. Secondly, different viewpoints and attitudes need not put us off our chosen path. As a matter of fact, they do not. We keep on working to accomplish the reforms desired and deserved by our people and country to attain an ever-higher level of democracy and welfare.

Another aspect is the undeniable fact that it will take some time for Turkey to achieve full membership, during which time things shall change. We will be facing different sets of circumstances, governments, leaders, needs and requirements, opinions and opinion polls..If the recent developments are an indication of what is to come, we are in for some wide-ranging and far-reaching changes in international landscape. The economic crisis, the Georgian one, the more recent Mumbai one, just to name a few, all serving to confirm  that we are living through a very dynamic and highly volatile era. Under the circumstances, it would be extremely ill-advised to indulge in pessimistic predictions and hold back our efforts on account of the misconception that “we are not going to be accepted anyway.”

While we are at it, let me elaborate on these developments just a little further. Excepting the economic crisis of course, the recent events seem to be in collusion to underscore not only geo-strategic, but also political significance of Turkey. It should be added that the point to be made here is, in my opinion, valid for the international community in general and the EU in particular.

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