WHERE DO WE STAND IN TURKEY’S ACCESSION PROCESS
Panel on “European Union Integration and Turkey”, Bahçeşehir University, İstanbul, 4 June 2010
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my great pleasure to address such a distinguished gathering and to have an opportunity to discuss recent developments regarding the Turkey-EU relations.
Turkey’s accession process
Last year was the 50th anniversary of Turkey’s membership application to the European Economic Community. Following this application of 1958, the Association Agreement with the EEC was signed in 1963. Finally in 2005, Turkey’s accession negotiations have started.
This has been a long process and has not yet been concluded. There are many reasons for this long delay. One principal reason is the dynamic nature of the European integration. When the idea of a European Union was born in the minds of the European Founding Fathers, the European political landscape was totally different from the one we have now. This is the result of tremendous changes which have taken place in the course of last five decades.
Needless to say, this changing landscape also affected Turkey’s accession process. Turkey’s dynamics also influenced this process and the Turkish interest in the EU membership has been undergoing some changes. Nevertheless, the Turkish people have always been closely interested in the values represented by the EU and the overall European integration process. Those values, namely democracy, human rights, basic freedoms rule of law have constantly been aspired by Turkish people and they will remain so regardless of the progress of the accession process.
State of play of the accession negotiations
Accession negotiations with Turkey have started in 2005. The screening process started in the same year and was concluded in 2006. I do not want to go into the details of the negotiation agenda, but the picture can be summarized as follows:
12 chapters are open
12 chapters were blocked already in 2006
6 chapters could be blocked now by the Greek Cypriots
Screening reports of the following 10 chapters have been withheld:
– Judiciary and Fundamental rights;
– Justice, Freedoms and Security
– Free Movement of Workers
– Transport policy
– Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments
– External Relations
– Financial and Budgetary Provisions
– Foreign, Security and Defence Policy
Of these I should like to draw attention to two, namely: “Judiciary and Fundamental rights” and “Justice, Freedoms and Security”. These two are the areas where a significant progress has been recorded and important reforms have been accomplished. Most importantly, Turkey emphasizes its strong commitment to continue this process until the EU standards are attained. Yet, negotiations on the chapters related to this area are delayed as Turkey did not receive the screening reports on “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights” and “Justice, Freedom and Security”. In other words, the EU asks Turkey to carry on the reforms, but fails to send in the screening reports to enable it to proceed.There obviously is a contradiction here.
The remaining four chapters are
– Social policy and employment;
* awaits the law on trade unions
– Public Procurements
* awaits the amendments in the law on public procurements
– Competition Policy
* awaits the law on competition
– Veterinary and phytosanitary issues including food safety
* awaits the control of the foot and mouth disease
Turkey believes that it will take some time before these criteria are fulfilled.
In spite of the chapters blocked for reasons not related to the Copenhagen criteria, Turkey is still criticized for being uncooperative or not doing enough. Two of these areas are “Competition Policy” and “Public Procurement”. Turkey is committed to improve the standards in these two areas as well. However, it may not be realistic to expect that Turkey will do it in full accordance with the EU priorities. I believe that the guiding factor will be Turkey’s domestic priorities. One may even speculate that some of the reforms could be achieved only within the framework of a full membership perspective.
I would also like to emphasize another serious discrimination experienced by Turkey. The chapters are categorized as those leading directly to membership and those not. This is difficult to understand.
Every chapter covers a specific area of the acquis communautaire and every area is equally important for harmonization of the domestic legislations with the EU legislation. Therefore by definition every chapter leads the acceding country to membership. If the aim of the negotiations is not membership, it is difficult to understand why the process is still continuing.
I have already mentioned the dynamic nature of the European integration. We fully understand that there are different opinions over the enlargement process and we have full respect for every opinion regarding the enlargement and Turkey’s accession. From the practical viewpoint, even if the negotiations on every chapter are concluded, nothing is agreed until the final decision is taken. Thus, there is no need to unnecessarily politicize negotiations which should be carried out at technical level. At the end of the negotiations each and every member will have the opportunity to say their final opinion.
Turkey’s Road Map
In this context, Turkey believes that this difficult period of the negotiations will not last forever. We’d rather look ahead, towards the future. Turkey’s determination will continue and we will do our homework.
Turkey has already released “Turkey’s Program for Alignment with the Acquis”. This is a road map established by Turkey itself and it covers the objectives set by Turkey for the period of 2007-2013. This is a unilateral commitment and shows Turkish governments determination to complete the necessary reforms.
Objectives of Turkey
When we set the objectives to be attained in the course of the negotiation process, our primary concern is reaching certain political, economic and social standards. Regardless of the outcome of the accession process, these reforms will be implemented and with these reforms we will have a more democratic political system, a stronger and more competitive economy and a more prosperous society. We are already looking beyond the horizon and we expect the EU to do the same.
Parameters of today and future
When we discuss the accession of Turkey we should limit our scope within the current parameters like the energy security of Europe and Turkey’s possible contribution to it.
However, we should be mindful of the fact that likely parameters of the future will be more complex. Let me just name a few issues which will appear on the agendas of the future leaders of Europe.
Firstly, according to the present demographic trends, the population of Europe is aging. The experts are already warning about the negative effects of this trend on economic production, especially in services sector and social security systems. For a sound economy, there is a need for proper production and consumption patterns, as well as regular labour and employment structures.
Secondly, the EU has reached a turning point where it has to make a choice between remaining as an economic community and becoming a soft power in world politics. The volatile region where the EU is situated and its proximity to other critical regions make this choice more urgent for the EU. If the EU is keen on pursuing a European foreign and security policy in a volatile geographic region, it needs likeminded partners. Therefore, its cooperation and coordination with Turkey can make its foreign and security policy more efficient and effective.
Thirdly, Turkey being the 6th biggest economy in Europe and 16th biggest economy of the world and moreover promising further growth in the near future, has a lot to contribute to the economy of the European Union. In fact, this is mutually beneficial to both sides. The Customs Union and economic stability reinforced by the EU accession process have contributed to the country’s economic growth in recent decades. Nevertheless, dynamic nature of the Turkish economy and its currents trends also contribute to the European economy as a trading and investment partner.
I would like to mention a recent study on the future of Europe, namely “Project Europe 2030: Challenges and Opportunities”, or as more commonly known the report of the “Reflection Group on the Future of the EU”. This report simply underlines the aforementioned points. The report emphasizes the importance of the global role to be played by the EU and sets down the necessary policy priorities to achieve this. The paragraph of the report on enlargement is as follows:
“The EU must stay open to potential new members from Europe, assessing every candidacy on its own merits and compliance with the membership criteria. These are in fact the “true limits of Europe”. In line with this policy of engagement and inclusiveness, the Union must honour its commitments with regard to the current official candidates, including Turkey, and carry on with the negotiation process. At the same time, it should offer far-reaching agreements to potential future candidates as an intermediate stage prior to the launch of accession negotiations.”
Parameters of international politics
It is enough to look at a map to see the challenges faced by the European Union in the future. Just to name a few, Iraq, Iran, Caucasus/Georgia, Black Sea, China-India and Russia are some of the issues for which the EU has to formulate a coherent policy. As a result of the enlargement, the EU is now closer to many regions such as the Caucasus and the Middle East.
Both Turkey and the EU may pursue their policies individually in those regions but as partners coordinating their efforts and cooperating in formulating their policies they can be more effective and credible in maintaining peace and stability in those regions. Turkey is a regional power and adjacent to most of these volatile regions and with Turkey it will be easier for the policies of the EU to produce the desired outcome.
Stabilizing effect of the EU membership
As our past experience clearly shows, the EU, as a soft power, has always had a stabilizing effect in its region. The EU membership has also contributed positively to resolution of several conflicts. EU members not only constitute an element of stability themselves, but they also have a positive effect on their neighbours and the countries in their regions. Turkey’s membership to the EU will have a stabilizing effect in the Caucasus and the Middle East as well as the Central Asia.
Importance of the continuation of the reform process
As you have already experienced, accession negotiations is a long process. It has its own dynamics, in addition to the effects of the progress of the European integration. Continuation of this process not only motivates and encourages the candidate country’s reform process, but it also helps the stability in a wider area. Therefore, the leaders of the EU have to bear in mind their responsibility while they give their messages to the world.
As the course of European integration has shown, a decade is a long time to make authoritative forecasts. In the course of a negotiation process lasting a decade or longer, many things may change, including the country and even the EU itself. Therefore, our primary concern should be the successful continuation of the negotiations that have already started, rather than indulging ourselves in speculations about future.
Thank you for your attention.