Europe is our common home that we have united around common norms, principles and values. As a part and parcel of the European family, Turkey not only had an influence on the political, economic and socio-cultural developments in the Continent but has also been influenced by them. An overall evaluation of the history of Europe cannot be made without analyzing the role that Turkey played in the Continent. As in the past, the destinies of Turkey and other European countries are intertwined. We face the future together. Therefore, relations with the EU are a fundamental aspect of the Turkish foreign policy. In this context, our goal to become an EU member is a strategic choice.
The Ankara Agreement and the Additional Protocol of 1970:
Turkey-EU relations were initiated in the framework of the association regime based on Ankara Agreement which was signed with the European Economic Community on 12 September 1963 and took effect on 1 December 1964. Ankara Agreement envisaged three stages for the integration of Turkey and the EU, namely a preparatory stage, a transitional stage and a final stage. The completion of the Customs Union was planned at the end of the transitional stage. With the finalisation of the preparatory stage as foreseen in the Agreement, provisions of the transitional stage and the obligations of the Parties were determined in the Additional Protocol signed on 13 November 1970 and put into effect in 1973.
With the completion of the transitional stage, the Customs Union, which constitutes an important stage for our integration with the EU, entered into force on 1 January 1996. The level of integration between the Parties reached an advanced point with the Customs Union and the next goal of Turkey became the membership to the EU, as indicated in Ankara Agreement (Article 28). The Customs Union continues to be a fundamental dimension of our relations with the EU. (The main organs of the existing association regime are the Association Council, the Association Committee, the Customs Cooperation Committee and the Joint Customs Cooperation Committee.)
The Helsinki Summit, the “candidate status” and the opening of accession negotiations:
A new period began in the relations between Turkey and the EU after Turkey assumed “candidate status” during the Helsinki Summit on 10-11 December 1999. At the Brussels Summit on 16-17 December 2004, the decisions taken in the 1999 Helsinki Summit were reaffirmed, as the Council took note that Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the political criteria and decided to open accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. Accession negotiations were launched on the abovementioned date, as planned.
The negotiation process:
In the accession process, 13 chapters (“4-Free Movement of Capital”, “6-Company Law”, “7-Intellectual Property Law”, “10-Information Society and Media”, “12-Food Safety, Veterinary and Phytosanitary Policy”, “16-Taxation”, “18-Statistics”, “20-Enterprise and Industrial Policy”, “21-Trans-European Networks”, “25-Science and Research”, “27-Environment”, “28-Consumer and Health Protection”, “32-Financial Control”) have been opened to negotiations so far and 1 of them (“25-Science and Research”) has been provisionally closed.
On 29 July 2005, the Additional Protocol extending the Ankara Agreement to the new member states that acceded to the EU in 2004 was concluded by exchange of letters among Turkey, the EU Presidency and the Commission. An official declaration to legally constitute an integral part of our letter and signature was also made. In the declaration, it was explicitly stated that Turkey, by signing the Additional Protocol, did not recognize the “Republic of Cyprus” by any means.
The negotiations on 8 chapters cannot be opened at present (“1-Free Movement of Goods”, “3-Right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services”, “9-Financial Services”, “11-Agriculture and Rural Development”, “13-Fisheries”, “14-Transport Policy”, “29-Customs Union” and “30-External Relations”) as a result of the EU Council decision of December 2006 and no chapters can be provisionally closed on the grounds that Turkey does not undertake its obligations stemming from the Additional Protocol to Ankara Agreement in its entirety (Turkey’s position with respect to Greek Cypriot Administration).
On the other hand, in 2007 France has declared that it will not allow the opening of negotiations on 5 chapters (“11-Agriculture and Rural Development” (one of the 8 chapters blocked due to Additional Protocol), “17-Economic and Monetary Policy”, “22-Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments”, “33-Financial and Budgetary Provisions”, “34-Institutions”) as they were considered directly related with membership by France. France recently lifted its blockage on chapter 22. On this basis, the EU General Affairs Council during its meeting on 25 June 2013 decided to open this chapter. Technical negotiations on chapter 22 is expected to be launched in autumn 2013 during the Lithuanian Presidency.
Following the EU Council meeting of December 2009, Greek Cypriot Administration unilaterally stated that it would block the opening of 6 chapters (“2-Freedom of Movement for Workers”, “15-Energy”, “23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights”, “24-Justice, Freedom and Security”, “26-Education and Culture”, “31-Foreign, Security and Defence Policy”).
It is a commitment of the EU to carry out the negotiations on chapters only on the basis of the relevant acquis. Both during institutional contacts with the EU and meetings with the representatives of the EU member states, Turkey emphasizes that the technical negotiation process should not be slowed down for political reasons. At present, efforts are underway to revive the negotiation process. Opening of chapter 22 would help creating a new momentum.
The reform process:
Turkey is going through a comprehensive political and economic transformation process. The impetus created by Turkey’s accession negotiations has been influential in this process as well. Large-scale reforms are being realised in order to attain the highest norms and standards in the field of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in line with the needs and expectations of the society. The Constitutional amendment package adopted by the referendum held on 12 September 2010 was an important step in the reform process. On the other hand, work is also under way to prepare and adopt a new, progressive and comprehensive constitution.
The 3rd Judiciary Reform Package which institutes new arrangements to increase the efficiency of judiciary services and on postponement of cases and sentences related to offences committed through the press, took effect on 5 July 2012. The 4th Judiciary Reform Package was adopted by the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 12 April 2013. In addition, on the basis of the laws adopted in June 2012, Ombudsman and the Human Rights Institutions were established. Ombudsman started to receive petitions in March 2013.
The 28th meeting of the Reform Monitoring Group which first gathered in 2003, with the participation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, EU, Justice and Interior, was held on 15 June 2013 in Ankara.
Despite the standstill in the accession negotiations due to blockage of negotiation chapters, the establishment of the Ministry for European Union Affairs in 2011, is another demonstration of Turkey’s determined drive towards EU membership and in this context, for reforms.
The EU Commission every autumn publishes a “Progress Report” stating its views on the developments during the current year concerning Turkey’s alignment with the EU’s acquis and in this context progress in accession negotiations with the EU.
The EU Commission, along with the Progress Reports on every candidate and potential candidate country, circulates an Enlargement Strategy document comprising assessments on its enlargement agenda. The latest Progress Report on Turkey and the Enlargement Strategy document were published on 10 October 2012.
The EU Commission in its Enlargement Strategy for 2011-2012 published on 12 October 2011 proposed to develop a “Positive Agenda” between Turkey and the EU. The EU Commission mentioned a broad range of areas as the main elements of the Agenda such as “intensified dialogue and cooperation on political reforms”, “visa”, “mobility and migration”, “energy”, “fight against terrorism”, “further participation of Turkey in Community programmes”, “town twinning”, “trade and the Customs Union” and “supporting efforts to align with the acquis, including on chapters where accession negotiations cannot be opened for the time being”. This proposal was considered favorably on the condition that it serves as an instrument in support of and complementary to the negotiation process with the EU.
In the framework of “Positive Agenda” Working Groups were established on 8 chapters (“3-Right of Establishment and Freedom to Provide Services”, “6-Company Law”, “10-Information Society and Media”, “18-Statistics”, “23-Judiciary and Fundamental Rights”, “24-Justice, Freedom and Security”, “28-Consumer and Health Protection” and “32-Financial Control”).
“Positive Agenda” kick-off meeting was held on 17 May 2012 in Ankara with the participation of Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. As a result of the Working Groups meetings held so far, a total of four closing benchmarks were confirmed to have been met by Turkey in three chapters.
Relations with the European Parliament:
Turkey attaches particular importance to close cooperation with the European Parliament (EP) and the national parliaments of the EU member states. Parliamentary contacts between Turkey and the EU have significantly intensified over the last years.
In addition, the “Parliamentary Exchange and Dialogue Project” carried out jointly by the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) and the EU, represents an important initiative in this context.
The plenary meetings of the EP in Strasbourg and Brussels are regularly followed by Turkish parliamentarians. Turkish Parliament’s EU and Foreign Affairs Committees have regular contacts with their counterparts in the EU member countries and the relevant committees of the EP.
The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), the only parliamentary body between Turkey and the EU, established in 1965 by the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the EP, serves as a platform to exchange views on the accession process and all related issues. The 72nd meeting of the JPC was held in Brussels on 27-28 June 2013.
The EP adopts each year a “Resolution on Turkey". The EP 2011 Resolution on Turkey prepared by Christian-Democrat Ria Oomen-Ruijten from the Netherlands, was adopted at the EP’s Plenary meeting in March 2012. The EU adopted another resolution regarding the situation in Turkey on 13 June 2013.
The EU Resolutions, to the extent they are fair and balanced, are reference documents to help carry forward the accession and reform processes.
The benefits of accession for Turkey and the EU:
Despite negative impacts of the economic and financial crisis which is being felt since 2009, Turkey, as the 6th largest European economy, occupied the first place in Europe in terms of growth with a rate of 8.5% in 2011 and %2.2 in 2012. Turkey also has intensive commercial and economic relations with the Union. The EU is our biggest trade and investment partner. Currently, approximately 37% of our total foreign trade is realised with the EU member states. 70% of the foreign direct investment in our country comes from the EU.
Turkey’s accession will increase the size of the European internal market and strengthen the relative competitiveness of the EU in the global economy. Turkey will constitute a true asset for the Union, with its educated and dynamic population, its reputed position in its region and with its visionary and multidimensional foreign policy.
Turkey also contributes to the civilian and military operations conducted by the EU. Turkey’s contributions in this framework are not only due to its status as a candidate for the EU membership, but also are an element of its multilateral foreign policy aimed at supporting international and regional peace and stability. The EUFOR-ALTHEA operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the EULEX mission in Kosovo are the EU operations and missions which Turkey now contributes to.
With its special geostrategic position and broad economic potential, accession of Turkey to the Union will yield concrete benefits. Turkey’s accession to the EU will bring an added value to the Union, not a burden. Carrying forward this relationship with the ultimate goal of membership is of a strategic importance for both Turkey and the EU.
Recent high level visits and meetings:
- The President of the EU Council Herman Van Rompuy paid an official visit to Turkey on 22-23 May 2013. President Van Rompuy, during his visit, met President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, and delivered a speech at the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey.
- The 51st meeting of Turkey-EU Association Council took place on 27 May 2013 in Brussels under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
- Furthermore, following the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on 27 May 2013, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu attended a dinner held with the participation of candidate countries.