Relations with the European Union in the Field of Environment

The EU accession process gives Turkey some responsibilities to introduce a series of fundamental reforms. One of the prerequisites of membership of the Union is the approximation of national law and EU law contained in the acquis communautaire. Approximation process of environmental sector covers not only transposition of all related legislation and enforcement but also the reorganization of institutional structure.  

The approximation process in the field of environment has been carried out by the related Ministries, (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Public Works and Settlement, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Health) government agencies, (State Planning Organization, General Secretariat of European Union, State Hydraulic Works, Undersecretariat of Maritime Affairs, Undersecretariat of Treasury, Undersecretariat of Foreign Trade) local authorities, municipalities, financial institutions also taking into account the evaluations of NGO’s with the coordination of Ministry of Environment and Forestry. In this framework, special projects focusing on drafting new legislation, reviewing of compliance of national legislation to EU legislation and evaluation of investment requirements in the field of environment have been carried out.  

During the approximation process, existing environmental awareness, motivated, professional staff and strong legislative structure have been useful to overcome the problems. On the other hand, it was the approximation process revealed that there more cooperation among the related institutions, strengthening of environmental sector and financial resources are required. The EU Integrated Environmental Approximation Strategy adopted by the High Planning Council on 7 February 2007, sets the approximate cost of compliance with the EU environmental acquis.  

The developments in the “environment” chapter after the recognition of Turkey’s candidacy to full membership are as follows:

- European Commission announced the first Accession Partnership Document on 8 November 2000 which is described as a road map and sets out Turkey’s full membership strategy. The Document, which also defines short and medium term priorities for the environment chapter to be addressed by Turkey, was revised in April 2003, November 2005 and lastly in November 2007. In response to the Accession Partnership Document of 2001, Turkey adopted its National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis in 24 March 2001. The National Plan was revised in 2003 in accordance with the revised Accession Partnership Document. The revised National Program contains short, medium and long term priorities to be addressed by Turkey in the priority areas that include improvement of water quality, increase effectiveness of waste management, improving air quality, nature conservation, industrial pollution and risk management, increasing strength and effectiveness of environmental impact assessment process and aligning with strategic environmental assessment directive, environmental noise management, management of chemicals and genetically modified organisms.  

- “Environment” is identified as one of the 35 negotiation chapters set in the Negotiation Framework that was adopted by the EU Council on 3 October 2005. Thereafter, “Explanatory Screening Meeting” was held between 3-11 April 2007 in Brussels where the Commission presented its expectations from Turkey in relation to each EU environmental legislation. Successively, Turkey’s position on the level of alignment with the EU environmental legislation was presented to the Commission during the Bilateral Meeting held between 29 May – 2 June 2006. Taking into account the information provided by Turkey, the Commission prepared the Screening Report for environment chapter in 2007, which includes the Commission’s assessment of Turkey’s position on the level of alignment of the EU environmental acquis.  

- “Turkey’s Programme for Alignment with the EU Acquis”, which sets a timetable for transposition of the all EU legislation, was announced on 17 April 2007. The Programme envisages the transposition of EU environmental legislation in between 2007-2013.  

- The revized Accession Partnership Document and the 2007 Progress Report were announced on 6 November 2007. According to the 2007 Regular Report, which assesses Turkey’s progress with regards to the level of alignment in terms of transposition, implementation, enforcement as well as administrative capacity since 2006, “Turkey has made substantial progress in strengthening the administrative capacity at central level. However, limited progress can be reported on horizontal legislation, air quality, chemicals, noise and waste. Turkey made no progress in the area of industrial pollution and risk management. The overall level of transposition of the environmental acquis is low.”  

The steps taken by Turkey on the path to EU membership and harmonization process of environmental legislation will directly increase environmental standards and ensure sustainable development.