Turkey’s EU Accession Process in the Aftermath of the EU Summit of 17 December 2004, Centre Europe, Ljubljana (Slovenia),17 Mart 2005 (Text and Power Point


Centre Europe, Ljubljana, 17 March 2005

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to address such a distinguished audience.

I would like to thank, at the outset, Mr. Matjaz Stefancic, Director of the Centre Europe, for having given me this opportunity.

Before talking about the accession process of Turkey in the European Union in the aftermath of the last EU Summit, it may be useful to summarize in a few sentences, major milestones of Turkey’s relations with the EU.

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. Turkey is therefore the very first country to have applied to become a member of the EU.

– 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.

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.

The Process after 17 December

The process will now continue according the following timetable:

The Documents to be prepared by the Commission

The Commission will prepare three documents in the aftermath of the EU Summit of 17 December 2004, namely:

a)      Framework for Negotiations

b)      Third Pillar (cultural dialogue)

c)      Accession Partnership

The nature and the content of these documents will be as follows:

Framework for Negotiations

The EU Commission will draft a document that is called a “Framework for Negotiations”. The Commission contemplates to make it ready to be submitted to the EU Council before the end of June 2005. This document will outline the negotiating position of the EU with Turkey. We expect that the Commission will consult Turkey during the drafting stage of this document as it has done in the case of other candidate countries.

Third Pillar

Another document to be drafted by the Commission will pertain to the Third Pillar of the recommendations submitted by the Commission to the Council. The Commission had suggested a Three-pillar strategy for Turkey, namely: a) support for the reform process in Turkey; b) rules pertaining the conduct of accession negotiations with Turkey; and c) “substantially strengthened political and cultural dialogue bringing the people together from EU member states and Turkey”. Turkey attaches great importance to this last pillar that is also called third pillar, because there are some misperceptions regarding Turkey in certain quarters of the EU public opinion. Turkey expects that some of these misperceptions may be corrected through this dialogue. The Commission will issue this document towards the end of June 2005.

Accession Partnership Document

The Accession Partnership is a document issued regularly by the Commission for the candidate countries. The very first version of this document was issued for Turkey in March 2001. It was drafted according to the decision of 1999 Helsinki Summit of the EU, which provided that Turkey should benefit from the pre-accession strategy that is made available by the EU for all candidate countries. It contained a long list of measures that Turkey is expected to take for the start of negotiations. An up-dated version of the document was issued in April 2003. Now the Commission will issue a second up-dated version of this document in November 2005. Turkey expects that the last version of the document will not contain any reference to subjects on which measures have already been taken by the Turkish authorities or the measure are in the pipe-line. Furthermore, it expects that new items will not be added to initial list. Otherwise, this exercise may become something like the Rock of Sisyphos of the Greek Mythology.

Progress Report on Turkey

Last version of the Regular Progress Report on Turkey was issued on 6 October 2004. The Commission will issue in November 2005 the subsequent version Report at the same time as the Accession Partnership Document.

Screening process

Not linked directly with the drafting exercise of the documents that I mentioned so far, there is another process that is crucial for the start of the negotiations namely the screening process, that is to say, comparing the Turkish legislation with the EU acquis communautaire. The Regular Progress Report on Turkey issued by the Commission on 6 October 2004 recommended to the Council to start the screening process at the same time as the accession negotiations. In its decision of 17 December 2004, the EU Council kept silent on the question of the starting date of the screening process. Therefore there is a slight vagueness on the exact starting date of the screening process. However, Turkey believes that it is ready to start the screening at any time, because this process is already under way for Turkey since more than four years. It was not called “screening process”, because, before 17 December 2004, the EU Council had not yet officially decided to open the accession negotiations. Therefore, it was called a “process of detailed scrutiny”. This process was launched at the meeting of the Association Council on 11 April 2000. Whichever way it was called, it achieved similar tasks as in the screening process.

Eight committees were established to carry out detailed scrutiny in the following fields:

Single Market and competition,

Agriculture and Fisheries,

Trade and Industry,

Economic and Monetary issues, Statistics, movement of capital,

Technological innovations, Training and Research Programs,

Communication, Environment, Energy and Trans-European networks,

Regional Development, Employment, and Social Policy,

Customs, Taxation, Prevention of Drug Abuse and Money Laundering.

29 chapters of the acquis were distributed to these committees. Officials from Turkey and the EU Commission are about to complete the fourth round of their work.

Furthermore there is a database program called “Progress Editor” that was established by the EU with a view to monitoring the screening process in the candidate countries. Since 2000, Turkey is forwarding regularly to this program detailed information regarding the progress achieved under each of the 29 chapters of the acquis.

In other words, since the year 2000, Turkey has been doing partly what the other candidate countries were doing as part of their accession negotiations.

Tasks for Turkey 

Turkey has committed itself to solve the outstanding issue of signing the customs protocol with the last 10 countries that joined EU in 1 May 2004, including Cyprus. This is an obligation for Turkey stemming from the Association Agreement signed in 1963 between Turkey and the EEC. This Agreement provides that Turkey undertake the same obligations towards the new member countries when they join the EEC (now EU). Turkey will abide by these commitments. It will do so by pointing out that the extension of these obligations to Cyprus would not imply Turkey’s official recognition of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkey will recognize the Republic of Cyprus when the Cyprus problem will be resolved in line with a Plan proposed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and supported by the EU.  In the meantime Turkey expects that the EU countries will keep their promise to ease the economic embargo that they are imposing on the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. 

Accession negotiations 

The regular practice for the start of negotiations is to hold an Intergovernmental Conference where all member countries and Turkey are represented.

Given the environment that I tried to describe so far, the negotiations may start soon after the screening work is completed in certain easy chapters where Turkey seems to be ready.

Turkey is aware that negotiations will be tough, long and painstaking. More will be required from Turkey than from previous candidate countries, because of its size, economic difficulties and its belonging to another culture.

Possible contributions of Turkey’s membership to EU

Is Turkey an asset or a liability for the EU? Turkey believes that many points put forward as a liability are actually assets that could be utilized to the advantage of the EU.

 I will mention some of the contributions that Turkey may make to the European Union.

From the EU perspective, Turkey’s membership will help strengthen the EU’s role as a global actor.  If the EU wants to be one of the major players in the global scene, it will achieve this goal more easily with Turkey’s contribution.

As a key regional actor and ally located in close proximity to many existing and potential hotspots that are high on the European and international agenda, Turkey can help enhance stability and promote welfare in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. In fact, out of 15 hot spots identified by NATO as potential threat to the alliance, 12 are located in areas adjacent to Turkey or in areas where Turkey has cultural or historical ties. These areas are Middle East (including Palestine, Syria, Iraq and Iran), Caucasus, the Balkans and the Central Asia. I do not want to suggest that EU cannot carry out its goals in these areas without Turkey’s contribution. However, I may say without undue modesty that these goals could be achieved more easily, with less effort and resources and with much less acrimony, if it is done in cooperation with Turkey.

Turkey contributes to the ongoing rapprochementbetween Europe and Asia and hence helps extend modern values in regions neighbouring Turkey.

Furthermore, Turkey’s membership in the European Union will surely 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.

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, at least more satisfactorily than many of the existing member countries of the EU. These unique features of Turkey make it 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.

Once Turkey becomes a member of EU, it will be able to contribute much more to the Common Foreign and Security Policy.  With its experience and capabilities in the military field, Turkey will definitely increase the weight of the EU in the global arena.

With Turkey as a full member, the Union will no doubt have a stronger voice.  The prevention and settlement of conflicts that involve the western community of nations and other countries will be easier.  The world will be safer. Above all, it will be a serious blow and an outright response to radical terrorism shaking the world today.

In the economic field, Turkey is located at the crossroad linking Asia to Europe and serves as a gate to the warm seas for the Black Sea basin countries, namely Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, the Russian Federation and Georgia. On the other hand Turkey is located on the natural route between Europe and basins rich in oil and natural gas such as Iraq, Iran, Caspian Sea and Central Asia.

Statistics indicate that, because of the aging population, there will be an increasing need for young manpower in the EU countries during the next decades. Turkey’s population is much younger as compared to the EU average. Half of Turkey’s population is under the age of 24. The age group between 0 and 15 years old constitute 18 % of the entire population in most of the EU-15 countries.  I understand that the situation is more critical in the last 10 countries that joined the EU in May this year. The same age group constitute 30 % of Turkey’s population. There are at present 3.5 million Turks working in the EU countries. 2.5 million Turks have worked in the EU countries and now came back to Turkey. They are adapted to a great extent to the living and working conditions in these countries. These figures and proportions indicate that Turkey may contribute to the solution of EU’s problem of aging population.

Turkey is the sixth biggest economy of Europe. Therefore Turkey’s accession will increase considerably the economic size of the EU.

Turkey has a customs’ union with the EU since 1996. Industrial commodities circulate between Turkey and the EU countries free of customs duties. This demonstrates that Turkey’s free market economy will be able to compete with the economies of the EU countries. Therefore Turkey’s economy will not have major difficulty in adapting itself to the economies of the EU countries.

On the other hand Turkey’s big population is a big labour market, but it is at the same time a big market for the consumption goods produced by the industries of the EU countries.

Is Turkey’s Accession a Threat?

Now I turn to various scenarios that attempt to present Turkey’s accession, not perhaps as a potential threat, but at least as a debatable subject.

I would like to refer you to a report published by Ms. Kirsty Hughes, on behalf of a group that calls itself  “Friends of Europe”. This group carried out a field survey in Turkey, contacted several NGOs, scholars and knowledgeable people from all quarters in Turkey and EU. It published a report titled “Turkey and the European Union: Just another enlargement?

This report argues the subject on the basis of the following working hypothesis: The accession negotiations will start in 2005 and it will last around ten years. By that time, Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU. Croatia will also join before Turkey.

I will summarize some of the conclusions of this report.

The Size of Turkey

One of the subject debated in the report is whether the size of Turkey too big? Turkey’s population of 70 million inhabitants equals roughly the total of 10 new member countries put together. Therefore, yes it is a big country. However, what we have to discuss here is not the size of the country, but the impact of size on the EU. Turkey’s population is big, but its economy is relatively smaller. Let us examine more closely the impact of the population.

Table one shows the UN population estimates for selected EU countries.  Today, Germany’s population constitutes % 18.1 of the EU-25.. The UN estimates that Turkey’s population will stabilise at around 97 million before 2050. Turkey’s own estimates are that it will stabilise at around 82 million long before 2050. However, for the sake of discussion, let’s suppose that UN estimates are more likely. The last line of the table shows the evolution of the proportion of Turkey’s population as a percentage of the EU-28. The relative importance of Turkey’s population is  % 12.8 now; it will be % 14.4 in 2015 and % 17.7 in 2050. If Turkey’s forecasts prove to be accurate and Turkey’s population stabilises at around 82 million, the relative importance of Turkey’s population in the total EU population will be % 14.4. In other words, it will never reach the level of the relative importance of the present German population. Nobody claimed so far that the relative importance of Germany’s population posed a threat for the EU. Why, in this case, a country whose population’s relative importance is less than that of Germany will pose a threat?

Furthermore, Turkey’s economy is much smaller than its demographic size. It is almost the size of Polish economy. Therefore, in the economic decision making process, Turkey cannot play a role commensurate with the size of its population. This as an advantage for the EU, because a country that has a big population but a small economy has a stabilising effect, since it will not overweigh in the balance while it may counterbalance the weight of other countries that have both a big population and a strong economy.

Free movement of labour

Another debate is on the possible pressure that Turkey’s population of about 70 million inhabitants may put on the labour market of the EU countries.

The experience of earlier enlargements demonstrated that such a concern is not justified, because such an influx did not take place during earlier enlargements. For instance, it was claimed before Spain’s and Portugal’s accession to the EU that, after their accession, workers from these countries would encroach the labour markets of the industrialised EU countries. Actually, what happened was exactly the opposite. The number of available jobs increased in the new member countries, because of considerable increase in investments. As a consequence of this, not only Spaniards and Portuguese stopped moving towards more industrialised countries of the EU, on the contrary, those who were working in the industrialised countries started to go back to their country of origin, leaving more room in the labour market for the citizens of these industrialised countries. There is no reason why a similar development will not take place after Turkey’s accession.

The direction of the flow of unemployed workers will depend on a variety of   factors, including the level of unemployment in Turkey and in the EU countries.             Unemployment rate

Table two shows unemployment rates in Turkey and selected EU countries. It is, at present, slightly higher than many EU countries and almost half of the unemployment rate of Poland. Other conditions being equal, it is more likely that an unemployed Turk will prefer to stay in Turkey, in his traditional family environment, rather than living in an alien environment without a job.

Another factor that will affect the flow of labour migration is the location of existing Turkish communities in the EU countries. Turks will prefer to look for a job in a country where they have relatives or compatriots. These are, according to the order of the size of the Turkish communities, Germany, France, Austria, Netherlands, UK, Belgium and Denmark.

Size of Turkish communities

Table three shows the size of Turkish communities in selected EU countries. Hughes estimates that the proportion of Turkish workers that will emigrate to the countries of EU-25 will remain around 0.5 % of the entire population in 2025. This figure will be higher than 0.5 % in countries like Germany, France and Austria; and smaller than 0.5 % in other countries where there are no sizeable Turkish communities. Another study carried out by a group of Dutch economists concludes that this average percentage will be even less than 0.5%.

Many experts in this field believe that that Turkey is more likely to export young and skilled portion of its population because of the comparative advantages of the Turkish and EU labour markets and because of the higher unemployment rate among young and skilled workers in Turkey.

Majority of researches carried out in this field indicate that the labour migration from Turkey to the EU countries will be relatively low and with a positive economic impact on the EU economies. I will argue later in this presentation that, given the proportion of young population in Turkey, the EU countries will have to encourage more influx of Turkish labour rather than to limit it.

Transition periods

Finally on this subject, the accession negotiations will be conducted under various chapters including free movement of labour. Countries that have concerns will have ample opportunity to raise this question at that stage and, if they feel uneasy, they will be able to ask transition periods for the free movement of labour from Turkey to their country.

Parliamentary representation

Third source of concern was the number of seats that Turkey will occupy in the European Parliament. Yes, Turkey will rank among the countries that occupy the highest number of seats. But, instead of talking about an abstract concern, let’s see what will actually take place when Turkey occupies such a high number of seats. Is it going to be a destabilizing factor or on the contrary a stabilizing factor?

Table four shows the number of seats in the European Parliament. At present Germany occupies 13.5 % of the seats in the European Parliament of EU-25. With Turkey as a member, the share of both Turkey and Germany will become 11.2 % each of the seats. If one country that controls 13.5 % of the seats does not cause any concern, there is lesser reason for concern for another country that controls only 11.2 % of the seats. Furthermore, members of the European Parliament do not always vote on the national lines.

I will not enter into the details of the potential impacts of Turkey’s accession on the voting pattern in the Council, because it is a question of a more technical nature. However, one may say that Turkey’s accession will play more stabilising role on the overall balances.

Foreign policy and security issues

Some observers draw the attention to the fact that, with Turkey as a member, EU’s borders will extend to the unstable areas of the Middle East and Caucasus and suggested that Turkey should be kept outside the EU as a buffer zone. Turkey made it crystal clear on several occasions that it is not prepared to assume such a role. If Turkey remains outside the EU, it is only natural that the new role that Turkey will assume will not be part of the EU Foreign and Security policy but its independent foreign policy. Furthermore, if Turkey is kept outside the EU, it may not remain a stable country as it is at present. In other words, it will not constitute a buffer zone, because the instability will come right to the EU’s immediate borders.

Apart from this, the EU can influence better Turkey’s external and internal security policies and foreign policies if Turkey is a member, because these policies will be drawn up as part of the common foreign and defence policy. The EU cannot have the same influence if Turkey remains out of the EU.


Accession negotiations with Turkey will definitely take several years. The opening of negotiations for each one of around 36 chapters will be subject to benchmarks to be determined by the Commission. Furthermore the opening and temporary closure of negotiations on each of the 36 chapters will require the unanimous decision of the Intergovernmental Conference. It other words every member country will have the right to block further progress in the negotiations. And finally, when the negotiations are closed on all of the chapters, each of the member countries will have to ratify Turkey’s accession either through a parliamentary decision or a referendum.

We cannot foretell what will be the balance of powers in the world at that time, we cannot foresee what role Turkey could be asked to play together with EU in volatile regions of the world such as the Balkans, Middle-East or Caucasus. We do not know to what extent the worries expressed by some Turko-sceptics will materialize.

When there are that many unknowns and that many safeguards to stop any unwanted course of events, it is hard to understand why some people still regard Turkey’s accession as a potential threat.

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