Bid to revive Ankara’s EU accession process
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Monday 21 May 2012
In an attempt to revitalise Turkey’s stalled EU accession negotiations, Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle has launched a ‘positive agenda’ towards the country during a visit to Ankara, on 17 May. “Our aim is to keep the accession process alive and put it properly back on track after a period of stagnation, which has been a source of frustration on both sides,” Füle said.
With its new strategy, the Commission plans to “re-energise European-Turkish dynamism” by creating “working groups” dedicated to eight individual chapters. “With our Turkish friends we have agreed to set up working groups whose task will be to accelerate the process of alignment of Turkey with EU policies and standards,” Füle explained. This initiative will not replace the existing process but will provide a new momentum to Turkey’s accession process, Füle noted. The priorities of the new “positive agenda” include bringing Turkey’s legislation closer in line with the EU’s; working jointly on foreign policy challenges like Syria; cooperating more intensively in energy issues; or making travel of Turkish citizens to the EU easier.
The working groups will focus on specific chapters of the EU accession negotiations, covering judiciary and fundamental rights; visas, mobility and migration; energy; trade and the customs union; and counter-terrorism. Ankara will “be offered support and guidance to intensify efforts for further alignment with the EU legislation”. The first working group on Chapter 23 – judicial and fundamental rights – held its meeting on 17 May.
Turkey, which applied for membership of the EU in 1987, was allowed to open negotiations only in 2005. But the process has been stalled ever since because of certain member states’ reluctance to see the predominantly Muslim country join the bloc. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy had stated he wanted the country to accept a special partnership agreement instead of EU membership.
The dispute over the divided island of Cyprus has also been a huge stumbling block to the advancement of said negotiations. In its October 2011 progress report on Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, the Commission urged Ankara to normalise its relations with the Greek Cypriot state.
Since 2005, Turkey has only been able to open 13 of the 35 negotiating chapters, and none have been opened in the past two years. Only one chapter (25) on science and research has been provisionally closed.
The Commission’s move comes only a few months before Cyprus takes over the rotating Presidency of the Union, in July. Turkish authorities have already announced their intention to suspend all relations with the bloc’s Presidency during the second half of 2012.