Turkey is the only pluralist secular democracy in the Moslem world and has always attached great importance to developing its relations with other European countries. Historically, Turkish culture has had a profound impact over much of Eastern and Southern Europe.
Turkey began “westernising” its economic, political and social structures in the 19th century. Following the First World War and the proclamation of the Republic in 1923, it chose Western Europe as the model for its new secular structure.
Turkey has ever since closely aligned itself with the West and has become a founding member of the United Nations, a member of NATO, the Council of Europe, the OECD and an associate member of the Western European Union. During the Cold War Turkey was part of the Western alliance, defending freedom, democracy and human rights. In this respect, Turkey has played and continues to play a vital role in the defence of the European continent and the principal elements of its foreign policy have converged with those of its European partners.
Having thus entered into very close cooperation with Western Europe in the political field, it was therefore only natural for Turkey to complete this in the economic area. Thus, Turkey chose to begin close cooperation with the fledgling EEC in 1959.
2.The Ankara Agreement
In July 1959, shortly after the creation of the European Economic Community in 1958, Turkey made its first application to join. The EEC’s response to Turkey’s application in 1959 was to suggest the establishment of an association until Turkey’s circumstances permitted its accession. The ensuing negotiations resulted in the signature of the Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community (the “Ankara Agreement”) on 12 September 1963. This agreement, which entered into force on 1 December 1964, aimed at securing Turkey’s full membership in the EEC through the establishment in three phases of a customs union which would serve as an instrument to bring about integration between the EEC and Turkey.
The Ankara Agreement envisaged the progressive establishment of a Customs Union which would bring the Parties closer together in economic and trade matters. In the meantime, the EEC would offer financial assistance to Turkey. Under the First Financial Protocol which covered the period 1963-1970, the EEC provided Turkey with loans worth 175 million ECU. The trade concessions which the EEC granted to Turkey under the form of tariff quotas proved, however, not to be as effective as expected. Yet, the EEC’s share in Turkish imports rose from 29% in 1963 to 42% in 1972.
Although the Ankara Agreement envisaged the free circulation not only of goods, but of natural persons, services and capital between the Parties, it excluded Turkey from the EEC decision-making mechanisms and precluded Turkey from recourse to the ECJ for dispute settlement.
The Customs Union that was to be established between the Parties went much further than the abolition of tariff and quantitative barriers to trade between the Parties and the application of a Common External Tariff to imports from third countries, and envisaged harmonisation with EEC policies in virtually every field relating to the internal market.
The Ankara Agreement still constitutes the legal basis of the Association between Turkey and the EU.
3.The Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol of 13 November 1970 set out in a detailed fashion how the Customs Union would be established. It provided that the EEC would abolish tariff and quantitative barriers to its imports from Turkey (with some exceptions including fabrics) upon the entry into force of the Protocol, whereas Turkey would do the same in accordance with a timetable containing two calendars set for 12 and 22 years, and called for the harmonisation of Turkish legislation with that of the EU in economic matters. Furthermore, the Additional Protocol envisaged the free circulation of natural persons between the Parties in the next 12 to 22 years.
The Additional Protocol brought significant advantages for Turkey’s agricultural exports to the EEC. 92% of our agricultural exports in 1971 benefited from this regime. Despite other agricultural producers such as Greece, Portugal and Spain later becoming member states, and the EEC’s conclusion of preferential trade agreements with certain Mediterranean countries, Turkey preserves even today its position as one of the EEC’s most privileged trading partners.
Had the Additional Protocol been implemented in full, the free circulation of goods and services and the harmonisation of Turkish legislation with that of the EEC in a multitude of areas would have been achieved at the end of the 22 year timetable.
4.Turkey’s Application for Full Membership in 1987
On 24 January 1980 Turkey shifted its economic policy from an autarchic import-substitution model and opened its economy to the operation of market forces. Following this development in the economic area and the multiparty elections in 1983, the relations between Turkey and the Community, which had come to a virtual freeze following the military intervention of 12 September 1980 in Turkey, began returning to normality. In the light of these positive developments, Turkey applied for full membership in 1987, on the basis of the EEC Treaty’s article 237 which gave any European country the right to do so. Turkey’s request for accession, filed not under the relevant provisions of the Ankara Agreement, but those of the Treaty of Rome, underwent the normal procedures. The Council forwarded Turkey’s application to the Commission for the preparation of an Opinion. This has reconfirmed Turkey’s eligibility, given that a similar application by Morocco was turned down by the Council on the grounds that Morocco is not a European country. The Commission’s Opinion was completed on 18 December 1989 and endorsed by the Council on 5 February 1990. It basically underlined Turkey’s eligibility for membership, yet deferred the in-depth analysis of Turkey’s application until the emergence of a more favourable environment. It also mentioned that Turkey’s accession was prevented equally by the EC’s own situation on the eve of the Single Market’s completion which prevented the consideration of further enlargement. It went on to underpin the need for a comprehensive cooperation program aiming at facilitating the integration of the two sides and added that the Customs Union should be completed in 1995 as envisaged.
Although it did not attain its basic objective, Turkey’s application revived Turkey-EC relations: efforts to develop relations intensified on both sides, the Association’s political and technical mechanisms started meeting again and measures to complete the Customs Union in time were resumed. Meanwhile, the Commission’s promised cooperation package, known as the “Matutes Package”, was unveiled in 1990, but could not be adopted by the Council due to Greece’s objection.
5.The Customs Union
a.The Technical Aspects of the Customs Union
Under these circumstances, Turkey chose to complete the envisaged Customs Union with the Community. Talks began in 1994 and were finalised on 6 March 1995 at the Turkey-EU Association Council. The Association Council is the highest ranking organ of the association and is composed of the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and the 15 EU Member States. On that day the Association Council adopted its decision 1/95 on the completion of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU in industrial and processed agricultural goods by 31 December 1995. At the same meeting, another Resolution on accompanying measures was adopted and the EU made a declaration on financial cooperation with Turkey as part of the customs union “package”.
With the entry into force of the Customs Union, Turkey abolished all duties and equivalent charges on imports of industrial goods from the EU. Furthermore, Turkey has been harmonising its tariffs and equivalent charges on the importation of industrial goods from third countries with the EU’s Common External Tariff and progressively adapting itself to the EU’s commercial policy and preferential trade arrangements with specific third countries. This process is to be completed in 5 years.
As a result of these measures, Turkey’s weighted rates of protection for imports of industrial products originating in EU and EFTA member states have fallen from 5.9% to 0%, and from 10.8% to 6% for similar goods originating in third countries. The latter rates will further drop to 3.5% when the EU fulfills its obligations under the WTO negotiations.
Although basic agricultural products have been excluded from the initial package, a preferential trade regime for these products has been adopted on 1 January 1998. Further efforts are expected to be made in the same direction. Moreover, Turkey is progressively adopting many aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy. On the other hand, under the Customs Union Decision, the EU is expected to take as much account as possible of Turkey’s agricultural interests when developing its agricultural policy.
Turkey’s efforts towards harmonising its legislation with that of the EU are under way. These efforts include, in commercial matters, monitoring and safeguarding measures on imports from both the EU and third countries, the management of quantitative restrictions and tariff quotas and the prevention of dumped and subsidised imports. As to competition rules, subsidies through State resources in any form whatsoever which distort or threaten to distort competition will be banned. A special Competition Authority has been set up for this purpose. Assistance to promote economic development in Turkey’s less developed regions and assistance intended to promote cultural heritage conservation and which does not adversely affect competition will however be allowed. Furthermore, Turkey is progressively adjusting its legislation regarding state monopolies of a commercial nature so as to ensure that no discrimination exists in the conditions under which goods are produced and marketed between nationals of Turkey and EU Member States. Turkey is also in the process of harmonising its laws with EU legislation eliminating technical barriers to trade during a transitional period which is expected to last five years, as foreseen in the Customs Union Decision. Effective cooperation between Turkey and the EU in the fields of standardisation, calibration, quality, accreditation, testing and certification will be achieved as part of this process. Harmonisation of Turkish legislation to that of the EU on intellectual, industrial and commercial property has been realised and laws for consumer protection are now being put in place. It is also noteworthy that both Parties are banned from using internal taxes as indirect protection mechanisms and from using tax rebates as export subsidies.
b.The Resolution on Accompanying Measures
Apart from these rather technical provisions related to the establishment and the proper functioning of the Customs Union, the package also comprised an Association Council Resolution providing for the intensification of cooperation between Turkey and the EU in such areas not covered by the Customs Union as industrial cooperation, Trans-European networks, energy, transport, telecommunications, agriculture, environment, science, statistics, as well as matters relating to justice and home affairs, consumer protection, cultural cooperation, information etc. These provisions also aimed at ensuring that the higher degree of integration achieved between Turkey and the EU through the Customs Union was not limited solely to economic/trade matters and that the Customs Union did serve its purpose under the Ankara Agreement: constituting an important cornerstone towards Turkey’s accession to the EU.
The third element of the Customs Union package was the statement on financial cooperation which the EU delivered at the Association Council meeting where Decision 1/95 was adopted. This financial cooperation, which amounted to 2.22 billion ECU over a five-year period, aimed at alleviating the burden which the opening up of the economy to EU competition would bring to Turkish economic operators on the one hand, and improving Turkey’s infrastructure and reducing the economic disparities between the parties on the other hand. Yet, the transfers envisaged within this framework have so far failed to materialise due to the lack of political will on the part of the EU.
d.The First Results of the Customs Union
Trade figures after the completion of the Customs Union reveal that, in 1996, our imports from the EU rose by 34.7% compared to 1995 and reached 22.7 billion dollars, while our exports, amounting to 11.477 billion dollars, rose by only 3.6%. The EU preserved its place as our biggest trading partner with a 52.9% share in our imports and 49.5% in our exports. This trend continued in 1997 and 1998. Turkey’s exports to the EU rose from 12.2 billion dollars in 1997 to 13.4 billion dollars in 1998 and imports from the EU increased from 24 billion dollars in 1997 to 24.8 billion dollars in 1998. In 1997, the share of Turkish imports from EU in total imports increased further reaching 51.1% and in 1998 52.5%, also the share of EU exports in total exports increased from 46.6% in 1997 to 50% in 1998. According to 1997 figures, Turkey’s share in total EU exports is 3.1% representing the significance of Turkey’s potential as a growing market for the EU while Turkey’s share in total EU imports is 1.8%.
Since the EU had already abolished its tariffs for imports from Turkey before the Customs Union, the only trade barriers being quotas for textiles that could not be filled by Turkey, the Customs Union did not bring about a significant liberalisation for our exports to the EU. Since 66% of our exports to the EU consist of consumer goods, they are sensitive to changes in European demand. The slow growth rate recorded in Germany, our biggest trading partner within the EU, impeded the growth of our exports to that country in 1996. Our exports to the EU are expected to rise with a return to higher growth rates in the Union. Our industry has also adapted itself very well to the new competitive environment, and not a single sector suffered from important problems.
Turkey’s efforts to align itself to the EU’s commercial policy towards third countries produced the Free Trade Agreements with EFTA, Israel, Romania, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria. Negotiations with Poland have been successfully completed and the agreement will be signed in the near future. The Agreement with Macedonia has been initialled, and the negotiation processes have been launched with Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt and the Palestinian National Authority. Preparations for alignment to the EU’s GSP are also underway. Agreement has been reached with the EU to further liberalise trade in agricultural products and a Free Trade Agreement with the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) entered into force on 1 August 1996. The Customs Union constitutes a very important step towards Turkey’s full integration with the EU. It has also demonstrated that, despite predictions to the contrary, the Turkish economy was able to withstand EU competition.
6.The European Union’s Enlargement Process and Turkey
Turkey attached particular importance to the EU’s current enlargement process for two main reasons. Firstly, having played an active role in the demise of the Soviet bloc, it was only natural for Turkey to aspire for inclusion in the new European architecture which it helped to build. Second, the Association between Turkey and the EU aims at Turkey’s full membership in the EU, as underlined once again with the Customs Union whose dynamics aim at bringing about further integration between the two Parties. This is why Turkey kept the question of inclusion in the EU’s enlargement process on the agenda of Turkey-EU relations. At the last Association Council of 29 April 1997, the EU reconfirmed Turkey’s eligibility for membership and asked the Commission to prepare recommendations to deepen Turkey-EU relations, while claiming that the development of this relationship depended on a number of factors relating to Greece, Cyprus and human rights.
The Commission, however, excluded Turkey from the enlargement process in its report entitled “Agenda 2000″ which it disclosed on 16 July 1997. While the report conceded that the Customs Union was functioning satisfactorily and that it had demonstrated Turkey’s ability to adapt to the EU norms in many areas, it repeated the same political and economic arguments against Turkey and made no reference to Turkey’s full membership objective. The Commission unveiled on the same day as “Agenda 2000″, the “Communication” to enhance relations with Turkey, where it reconfirmed Turkey’s eligibility and brought a number of recommendations ranging from liberalisation of trade in services to consumer protection, that aim at taking Turkey-EU relations beyond the Customs Union, but cited a number of political issues as pre-conditions for moving our relations forward.
The fact that the EU confirmed Turkey’s eligibility for membership but excluded it from the enlargement process has been seen as a contradiction. The Commission opted to propose measures that would reinforce the relationship within their current framework and complemented these measures with the idea of inviting Turkey to the European Conference. In the light of the EU’s claims that all candidates would be judged according to the same objective criteria and that there would be no prejudice in their evaluation, Turkey found the Commission’s approach unjust and discriminatory.
As a result, even though the Commission argued that the same criteria were applied to Turkey and the other candidates, they produced logically diverging conclusions.
7.The Luxembourg European Council and the Following Period
Although the decisions of the Luxembourg Summit reflected by and large the contents of the Commission’s “Agenda 2000″, the following points related to Turkey need to be highlighted:
· Turkey’s eligibility was reconfirmed.
· The EU decided to set up a strategy to prepare Turkey for accession and to create a special procedure to review the developments to be made.
· Turkey was invited to the European Conference, but a number of unacceptable pre-conditions were put forward.
· The development of Turkey-EU relations was made conditional on certain economic, political and foreign policy questions.
· The Commission was asked to submit suitable proposals to enhance Turkey-EU relations.
In a statement issued the day after the Summit, the Turkish Government criticised the EU’s attitude, stated that Turkey’s goal of full membership and Association would nevertheless be maintained, but that the development of bilateral relations depended on the EU’s honouring its commitments, and that it would not discuss with the EU issues remaining outside the contractual context of the bilateral relations as long as the EU did not change its attitude. In line with this statement Turkey did not participate in the inaugural meeting of the European Conference held in London on 12 March 1998. Turkey has thus made it clear that the way out of this difficult situation in the bilateral relations depended on the political will to be displayed by the EU.
The Commission published its recommendations for a “European Strategy” on 4 March 1998. Its contents were more-or-less similar to former packages which the EU promised but failed to deliver in the past. Moreover, the ambiguity over how this package would be financed prevented Turkey from being optimistic about its chances of being put into effect soon. The Commission itself conceded that the implementation of this package would require considerable financial resources.
The summit meeting held in Cardiff on 15-16 June 1998 offered a good opportunity to rectify the unwarranted difficult period which Turkey-EU relations entered into following the Luxembourg Summit. Although certain positive developments were achieved with regard to the language used for Turkey in the Presidency Conclusions of the Summit, they were not sufficient for Turkey to modify its policy outlined after the Luxembourg Summit. An important result of the Cardiff Summit for Turkey-EU relations was the EU leaders’ endorsement of the Commission’s “European Strategy” for Turkey and the request made to the Commission to find solutions with a view to making available the financial resources required for the implementation of the “European Strategy”.
In the Statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the Cardiff Summit, the positive developments mentioned above were noted and the EU’s quest for finding the financial resources required by the “European Strategy” was interpreted as an indication of the EU’s awareness of the need for fulfilling its obligations towards Turkey with due emphasis on the importance of concrete steps in this area. The Statement nevertheless underlined the contrast between the pre-accession strategy devised for the other candidates and the “European Strategy” for Turkey, which consisted simply of a set of ideas whose financing remained uncertain. It also stressed the fact that Turkey would not accept the subjection of its candidacy to additional political pre-conditions, that the parameters put forward in the Government Statement of 14 December 1997 remained valid, and that Greece’s persistent obstructions would continue to have negative effects on Turkish-Greek relations.
In fact, the Strategy does not contain new elements. Most of the proposals made in it reiterate commitments contained in earlier agreements which have not been fulfilled over the years. Although four rounds of talks were completed, there has not been sufficient progress in the implementation of the Strategy which was proposed by the EU as a basis for the development of Turkey’s relations with the EU. The lack of financial resources and a proper perspective for Turkey’s accession are, in fact, the main obstacles which impede the proper implementation of the Strategy. Consequently, the Strategy has been insufficient in bringing Turkey’s relations to the desired level.
At the Cologne European Council held on 3-4 June 1999, the initiative was taken by the German Presidency with a view to ensuring the recognition of Turkey’s candidate status on an equal footing with the others. Compared to the previous Government in Germany, the new Coalition Government which came to power in October 1998 seemed to have taken a more positive line regarding Turkey’s quest for EU membership. However, the objections of some EU Member States prevented this initiative from being realised. As a consequence, the EU refrained from taking a decision to include Turkey in the accession process. This constituted yet another failure of the EU to recognise Turkey’s candidate status clearly and unambiguously. Therefore, in the statement made by the Deputy-Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 4 June 1999, Turkey’s appreciation of the initiative taken by the German Presidency was expressed, but it was also declared that since the discriminatory approach towards Turkey remained unchanged at the Cologne Summit concerning the recognition of its candidate status, the decision adopted by the Turkish Government on 14 December 1997 following the Luxembourg Summit, pertaining to the conduct of its relations with the EU would remain valid.
The EU Foreign Ministers, at their Gymnich-type meeting on 4 and 5 September in Saariselka, in Finland, had discussions on aid to Turkey following the earthquake in northwestern part of Turkey in August 1999 and on future relations between Turkey and the Union.
However, no agreement was reached at the meeting on Turkey’s candidate status.
On the other hand, EU Council President, Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen invited Turkish Foreign Minister İsmail Cem to attend a working lunch after the General Affairs Council meeting 13 September 1999 in Brussels. This provided an opportunity to express the Turkish views concerning the need for reconstruction after the earthquake, as well as the current Turkish-EU relations.
In addition to the two emergency humanitarian aid packages of 2 million euros each granted to Turkey in the week preceding the earthquake, the consensus has been reached at the meeting for another humanitarian aid package of 30 million Euros for the reconstruction.
It was understood that 150 million Euros foreseen for the 3-year period may now be released. In fact, this amount which is divided into 15 and 135 million Euros, has already been foreseen within the framework of the “European Strategy for Turkey”. “Unanimity rule” is required only for the 15 million Euro part, whereas the other part of the said amount is subject to consensus.
The European Investment Bank has decided to launch a loan of 500-600 million Euro to help Turkey tackle the consequences of the earthquake. The allocation to Turkey of a “substantial part” of the resources of the MEDA II programme for 2000-2007 period has also been foreseen.
However, Greece has not lifted its veto on the 375 million Euro from budgetary resource or from the 750 million Euro of the European Investment Bank for Turkey as envisaged in 1995 when the Customs Union between Turkey and EU was realised.
In preparation for the European Council to be held in Helsinki in 10-11 December 1999, the Commission issued its second regular Report on the progress which Turkey makes towards accession on 13 October 1999. In the Composite Paper which was also presented together with the Progress Report, the Commission took important steps by proposing that Turkey be considered as a candidate and backed this with concrete actions similar to those provided for the other candidates. Turkey welcomed these proposals that would prepare her for full membership to the EU. In the Statement made by the Foreign Ministry of Turkey, it was stated that the endorsement of all these EU Commission proposals at the Helsinki European Council, in other words, Turkey’s recognition as an official candidate with all its inherent modalities, would initiate a new phase in Turkey-EU relations.
After the OSCE Summit held in İstanbul, Foreign Minister Cem gave a lunch to his EU counterparts. At this meeting, Turkish candidacy at the European Council in Helsinki was discussed at length and Turkey was able to present the latest developments.
The Helsinki European Council held on 10-11 December 1999 produced a breakthrough in Turkey-EU relations. At Helsinki, Turkey was officially recognised without any precondition as a candidate state on an equal footing with the other candidate states. While recognising Turkey’s candidate status, the Presidency Conclusions of the Helsinki European Council endorsed the proposals of the Commission made on 13 October 1999. Thus, Turkey, like other candidate states, will reap the benefits form a pre-accession strategy to stimulate and support its reforms. This will also include an Accession Partnership, which will be dawn up accordingly, combined with a National Program for the adoption of the acquis. Turkey will participate in Community programs open to other candidate countries and agencies. Turkey will be invited to the meetings between candidate states and the Union in the context of the accession process. A single framework for coordinating all sources of EU financial assistance for pre-accession will also be created.
The recognition of Turkey as a candidate for accession at the Helsinki European Council in December 1999 ushered a new era in the relations between Turkey and the EU. For both parties, Helsinki marks a qualitatively new beginning and a process of strategic mutual transformation.
ACCESSION PARTNERSHIP, THE NATIONAL PROGRAM AND RECENT PROGRESS TOWARDS ACCESSION
As foreseen in the Helsinki European Council conclusions, the EU Commission started to prepare an Accession Partnership for Turkey, which was declared on March 8th, 2001. On the other hand, the framework regulation designed to furnish the legal basis for the Accession Partnership was adopted by the General Affairs Council on February 26th, 2001. The regulation aims at combining all EU financial assistance under a single program. The Accession Partnership was formally approved by the Council on February 26th, 2001. With the adoption of these two documents, an important legal procedure concerning Turkey’s accession strategy was finalized.
After the approval of the Accession Partnership by the Council and the adoption of the Framework Regulation, the Turkish Government announced its own National Program for the Adoption of the EU acquis on March 19th, 2001. The National Program was submitted to the EU Commission on March 26th, 2001. The National Program has been produced with a careful appreciation of the short and medium term priorities as spelled out in the Accession Partnership.
Following these important developments, the 40th Turkey-EU Association Council meeting was held in Luxembourg on June 26th, 2001. In this second Association Council meeting after Helsinki, progress achieved within the framework of Turkey’s pre-accession strategy was evaluated and a number of decisions were taken, concerning Turkey’s participation in Community programs, providing Turkey with full access to TAIEX offices and the establishment of joint consultation mechanisms that will convene regularly in order to discuss trade matters related to the Customs Union. The next meeting is envisaged for 16 April 2002.
Progress towards accession continues along the path set by the National Program. The most pressing aim here is the opening of accession negotiations, which depends on the fulfillment of the Copenhagen political criteria. Within the last year, Turkey took a number of important steps towards this end. The most important among these is the major review of the Constitution. Thirty-four Articles of the Turkish Constitution have recently been amended and many of these amendments (22) actually coincide with the provisions of our National Program. The package of constitutional amendments covers a wide range of issues, such as improving human rights, strengthening the rule of law and restructuring of democratic institutions. These form only a part of the deep political reform process that Turkey has initiated. They are being followed by complementary legislative and administrative measures to ensure their implementation.
On the economic front, in line with the National Program and in response to the serious economic crisis that Turkey has been going through, numerous reform measures have been adopted. Therefore, considerable progress has been made in meeting the priorities envisaged in our National Program. Work on the harmonization of Turkish legislation with the acquis also continues unabated.
During the whole year, the EU on its side, worked to finalize its internal procedures on Turkey’s participation to the Community programs and the adoption of the single framework for financial assistance to Turkey. The related decisions were finally adopted by the Council on 17 December 2001. With the single framework, from now on PHARE procedures will be applied in EU-Turkey financial cooperation. As far as Community programs is concerned, Turkey will be able to participate in them as of 2002, with the completion of the Framework Agreement.
LAEKEN EUROPEAN COUNCIL
The Laeken European Council of 14-15 December 2001 had important implications for EU-Turkey relations in general and the accession process in particular. Foremost among these is the possibility of opening accession negotiations with Turkey, which for the first time has been explicitly mentioned at the highest levels. Turkey’s recent concrete steps as regards European Security and Defense Policy, together with the recent developments in Cyprus also had a positive impact on this conclusion. Another important decision taken at Laeken is that Turkey will be taking part in the Convention on the future of Europe on an equal basis with the other candidates. This can be considered as a progressive step, in the sense that the EU considers Turkey to be part of a common future. Thus, a clear membership perspective along the lines of the other candidates has been given to Turkey.
CONVENTION ON THE FUTURE OF EUROPE
Having established the institutional framework necessary for an enlarged EU, the Nice European Council of December 2000 also called for a deeper and wider debate about the future development of the EU. To this end, a declaration on the “Future of the Union” was annexed to the Nice Treaty and the debate was formally launched in 2001. In 2004, an Intergovernmental Conference will be convened to finalize the debate.
In order to structuralize this debate and prepare the groundwork for the forthcoming IGC, a “Convention” was set up at the Ghent Informal European Council meeting of 19 October 2001 and its rules of procedure were agreed upon. The Convention will consist of government representatives, members of national parliaments, members of the European Parliament, Commissioners and NGOs. Candidate countries will also be represented in the Convention on an equal footing with member states. In its preparatory work, the Convention will mainly focus on four themes: the status of the Fundamental Rights Charter, the role of national parliaments within the European architecture, sharing of responsibilities between the Union and member countries, the simplification of EU’s founding Treaties.
The status of the Convention was stipulated by a specific declaration adopted at the Laeken European Council. According to this declaration, the Convention will hold its first meeting in 1 March 2002 and at the end of its preparatory work, will submit a report to the Council as a recommendation. Candidate countries will take part in the Convention on equal basis as the member states; nevertheless they will not have the right to prevent a consensus.
In accordance with the Laeken European Council Conclusions, Turkey will participate in the Convention on an equal status with the other candidate countries and will join the Convention’s work with two parliamentarians and a government representative.
At the Association Council meeting of April 11th, 2000, 8 sub-committees were set up with the task of monitoring the process of analytical examination of the acquis. The sub-committees completed their second round meetings within July 2001.
Substantial progress has been made during these meetings. The acquis has become more tangible and meaningful for the Turkish bureaucracy. Yet in this process, the need for a more detailed evaluation of the acquis became apparent. Therefore, Turkey suggested initiating a formal screening exercise. The request was especially pronounced during meetings with the Commission officials, before the announcement of this year’s Progress Report.
The fact that the Progress Report for 2001 did not propose the initiation of a screening process for Turkey is its most negative aspect. Initiating the screening process with Turkey would have been important in two aspects. Firstly, it would indeed provide a further technical capacity of developing the integration process. Secondly, beginning the screening process would give added impetus to the implementation of the reform measures undertaken by the government in the political and economic spheres.
It is an unfortunate development that a number of EU Member States have made the initiation of the screening process a political issue and identified it with accession negotiations. The fact that there is a linkage between screening and membership negotiations is not challenged. However, there are no conditions to start a screening process, while to begin accession negotiations, political criteria must be fulfilled. Moreover, as the experiences of other candidate countries reveal, there are no uniform procedures for the initiation of the screening process. As the Helsinki European Council Conclusions pointed out, there should be no discrimination between the candidate countries and future steps for Turkey should also be similar to those of the other candidates.
Nevertheless, in the Progress Report, the Commission recommended starting a new phase in the pre-accession strategy by involving a detailed scrutiny of Turkey’s legislation and its timetable for alignment with the acquis. While unsatisfactory in responding to her requests, Turkey will assess the Commission’s proposal positively. The sub-committees will continue to monitor the progress. We envisage that the 3rd round will complete its work during the Spanish Presidency.
2001 REGULAR REPORT AND STRATEGY PAPER
This year the European Commission prepared its fourth annual Progress Report for candidate countries. As all other reports, 2001 Progress Report for Turkey was announced on 13 November 2001. On the same day, the Commission also declared its Strategy Paper, introducing proposals on methods to be applied in the future, within the framework of the enlargement process.
Progress Reports evaluate the candidate states’ progress towards membership only for that specific year. Compared to previous ones, there is a notable difference in this year’s Report for Turkey. It was drawn up in a more careful manner in view of the momentum created by the recent constitutional amendments. Those matters that were found wanting were also enumerated in the same way.
It is evident that some of the weaknesses pointed out in the Report concerning fundamental rights and freedoms will disappear as our National Programme comes to life with all its aspects. In fact, this assumption finds its place in the Report, which states that as the constitutional changes are reflected into the secondary legislation, these weaknesses will gradually disappear.
On the other hand, the steps taken in Turkey concerning improvements in the economic, social and cultural rights areas, training carried out in the human rights field and the modernization in the prison system were found to be positive by the EU Commission. This assessment is constructive and an encouragement for Turkey’s ongoing reform process carried out in these fields. Turkey has lately made some real progress deserving attention and it is believed that individual cases ought not shadow these developments.