Turkey’s Long Journey to the EU: The Gains and Challenges for Turkey and the EU, Ota University, Berlin 26 February 2007

“TURKEY’S LONG JOURNEY TO THE EU:

THE GAINS AND CHALLENGES

FOR TURKEY AND THE EU”

Text of speech

delievered by

Yaşar Yakış

Chairman of the European Union Commission

in the Turkish Parliament

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

at

OTA UNIVERSITY

Berlin, 26 February 2007

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

            It is a great pleasure for me to address such a Distinguished Audience. I am very happy to be together with you in the OTA University.

            I believe that this University has a unique significance for Turkey and Germany. It is a symbol of close cooperation between the two countries.

            Let me first thank Professor Rita Sismuth, former Speaker of the Bundestag and Mr. Erman Tanyıldız for their great endeavours in founding this University.

           I am also grateful to them for their valuable contributions to the Turkish – German cooperation in this regard.

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

            Today, I will make a presentation on Turkey EU relations that have almost fifty years past. I think fifty years sounds familiar to you. This year, we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding Treaty of the Union. That is to say, Turkey-EU relations are as old as the history of the Union itself.

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

            In order to leave more room to your questions,  I will be brief in my presentation.

            At the outset, I want to point out that the deep-rooted and multi-dimensional relations between Turkey and Germany is of significant importance for both countries. Both Turkey and Germany have strategic interests in maintaining close cooperation in all areas.

            Furthermore, Germany is the second home to more than 2.5 million Turks. In this context, it has always been one of our priorities to encourage them to integrate into the societies they live in but also preserve their cultural values. I also want to mention that the number of Germans who take up permanent residence in Turkey has been constantly increasing. We call Alanya region in Turkey as “Mini Germany”. Almost 7000 German citizens have already settled there.

            Now, I would also like to say a few words regarding the German Presidency as well. We appreciate the momentum created by the German Presidency in the accession process. In the coming period, continued efforts by the German Presidency to advance Turkey’s accession process will be crucial.

            Ladies and Gentlemen,

A quick look at the past of Turkey-EU relations could help to understand better Turkey’s long journey to 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,

–         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,

            Turkey-EU relations over the course of almost fifty years have had their ups and downs. The 1999 Helsinki European Council Decision was a crucial landmark that turned the tides in many respects. With the official recognition of Turkey in Helsinki as a candidate country destined to join the Union on equal footing with the other candidate countries, 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 the highest priorities of the Turkish Government. 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 now irreversible nature of these reforms, regardless 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 realized 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. As far as Turkey is concerned, there will be no slowing down in the accession process.

            Ladies and gentlemen,

            Before answering 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

–         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.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

   I want to stop here. I am ready to answer your questions

  Thank you for your attention.

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