Turkey’s Accession Process to the EU, Sofiya, 17 June 2008 (Text and Power Point)


Text of speech

delivered by


Mr. Yaşar Yakış

Chairman of the EU Committee in the Turkish Parliament,

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

at the Foreign Service Institute

Sofiya, 17 June 2008

            Distinguished Guests,

            Dear Colleagues,

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a special privilege to address such a distinguished in Foreign Service Institute. I must say I am particularly pleased to see fresh young faces, reminding me of my young ages of forty years ago. However, one should not indulge in reminiscences and I intend not to. My short presentation will be on EU, so that   afterwards my colleagues of all ages would have time to pose questions on different issues as well.

            Let me briefly touch upon the relations between our two countries at the outset. As a country, which has successfully integrated with the Euro-Atlantic institutions, Bulgaria is a very important neighbour for Turkey. This importance is further enhanced by the special historical, cultural and human bonds between our countries and moreover enables us to make a positive impact on the regional development as well. I am happy to observe that our relationship covers a large spectrum and reaches a satisfactory level in a number of areas, thus presenting a good example of neighbourly relations.

            It should also be mentioned that Bulgaria is an important economic partner for Turkey. Our economic relations have reached an outstanding level in terms of both the amount of trade volume and investments. The trade volume between Turkey and Bulgaria has quadrupled in the last 7 years, reaching more than 4 billion dollars in 2007. Bulgaria ranks second among Turkey’s trading partners in the Balkans while Turkey constitutes the fourth trading partner for Bulgaria and the number one market for Bulgarian exports.

            Moreover, Turkish investments in Bulgaria have also increased considerably in recent years. Turkey, which comes first in terms of number of firms operating in Bulgaria, is considered to be among the “strategic investors” in Bulgaria, with total investment of Turkish enterprises amounting to 600 million Dollars. We certainly hope and expect that our economic and trade relations will sustain their momentum and continue to develop further in the years ahead.

            Turkey and Bulgaria cooperate very closely within the framework of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

Last but not the least, the Bulgarian citizens with ethnic Turkish origin play an important role in the context of long-standing human bonds that make our relationship special.

            There is one final item that I would like to mention only without dwelling, on it at length. It is the decisions and other initiatives taken by some Bulgarian city councils concerning the 1915 Events regarding Ottoman Armenians. At this stage, I will confine my statement to pointing out that such an action is in contradiction with the obligations that Bulgaria has undertaken by signing the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide. However, I will be prepared to further elaborate this subject during the question and answer period.

            Coming to my main topic, first I should refer to the historical component: Turkey’s relations with the EU dates back to the end of 1950s. That means these relation have a history of almost 50 years. We also have the dubious privilege of being the longest standing candidate for membership. At this point let me say what should perhaps be said at the end: After all these years, no one should expect us to agree on less than full membership.

            Having stated the obvious, let’s now continue with a very brief look at those fifty years which could help us to better understand Turkey’s journey towards Europe:

Major milestones in Turkey’s relations with 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,

–         An important step was passed  with the opening and provisional closure of negotiations in “Science and Research” chapter on 12 June 2006,

–         Screening process is successfully accomplished in all chapters in one year term and completed on 13 October 2006.

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

During those fifty years there surely have been ups and downs. The 1999 Helsinki European Council Decision was a crucial landmark that turned the tide in many respects. It was officially recognized at the Helsinki Summit in 1999 that Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the Union on equal footing with the other candidate countries. With this decision our relations with the Union took on an entirely new meaning. It was also the turning point for our domestic agenda of reform.

            Turkey has undergone a historic period of reform and transformation since 1999.

            Attaining the highest political, economic and social standards continues to constitute one of our highest priorities. It is committed to dynamically pursuing the comprehensive agenda of reform aimed at strengthening democracy; consolidating the rule of law and promoting further fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. What must be stressed in this respect is the nature of these reforms, which now is irreversible, regardless of the outcome of our accession process.

            Turkey’s reform agenda has been advanced to date through three constitutional amendments enacted together with the eight reform packages adopted.

            Let me say that Turkey accomplished a silent revolution in this respect. I also want to emphasize that our government is fully committed to the accession process. We will carry on the reforms, both political and acquis-related.

            The present state of  negotiations

            Perhaps a few words on the recent developments would be helpful here:

We have so far opened 6 chapters, one of which has been provisionally closed:

–    Science and Research-25 (opened and provisionally closed)

–    Enterprise and Industrial Policy-20 (opened only)

–    Statistics-18 (opened only)

–    Financial Control-32 (opened only)

–    Trans-European Networks-21 (opened only)

–    Consumer and Health Protection-28 (opened only)

            There are 8 chapters which will not be opened under the decision of General Affairs Council of 11 December 2006 until Turkey fulfils its commitments arising from the Additional Protocol to Ankara Agreement. These chapters are:

–    Free Movement of Goods

–    Freedom of Enterprise

–    Financial Services

–    Agriculture and Agrarian Development

–    Fisheries

–    Transportation Policy

–    Customs Union

–    External Relations

            Turkey focused its work on the chapters that are not subject to the opening benchmarks as well as on the benchmarks of the remaining chapters.

            It has submitted its Negotiating Position Papers for the chapters “Company Law-6” and “Intellectual Property Rights-7” in May.

            It aims to open these two chapters at the Accession Conference to be held on 17 June 2008.

            Turkey gives priority to the chapters “Free Movement of Capital-4”, “Environment-27”, “Employment and Social Policy-19” and Competition Policy-8”.

            Opening of as many chapters as possible during the Slovenian and French Presidencies is vital for the sustainability of the accession process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before taking your questions, let me briefly summarize some of the possible contributions of Turkey’s membership to the EU.

Possible contributions of Turkey’s membership to the EU

–         That EU is not of a sufficiently global actor is obvious due to a variety of reasons which I am not dwelling on here. Turkey’s membership will be invaluable in a number of ways in strengthening the Union’s potential in this respect.

–         Closely connected with the former point, once Turkey becomes a member of the EU, its contribution to the Common Foreign and Security Policy in terms of both hard and soft power along with a number of other essentials will be substantial.

–         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 and further strengthening the spiritual fabric of the European Union.

–         Turkey is the seventeenth biggest economy in the world.  Therefore, Turkey’s accession will expand the EU economy, bestowing it a new vigour.

–         Full membership of Turkey to the EU will make a significant contribution to the protection of EU’s strategic interests regarding European energy supply security.

–         Turkey’s EU membership will help EU firms to obtain more advantageous positions in Middle Eastern and Central Asian Markets.

–         Turkey’s young population will perform a vital role in sustaining economic dynamism in the EU in the face of competition from “new comers” such as China or China.

–         Turkey’s EU membership will bring advantages to the EU in connection with the extension of Trans-European Networks.

Dear Colleagues, Distinguished guests,

I conclude my words here. I am now prepared to take questions that you may wish to ask.

Thank you for your attention.

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