29th Feb 2024

EU adopts rigorous negotiation rules for Turkey

The European Commission adopted on Wednesday (29 June) the guidelines on which accession negotiations with Turkey will be based, with enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn defining them as the most severe adopted so far by the EU executive.

The document confirms that the goal of the accession negotiations remains full membership of the EU for Turkey.

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However "these negotiations are an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed beforehand", the text says.

If "a serious and persistent breach" is noted in Turkey as regards democracy, respect for human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law, negotiations may be suspended.

And "if Turkey is not in a position to assume in full all the obligations of membership it must be ensured that Turkey is fully anchored in the European structures through the strongest possible bond", according to the draft.

The framework for negotiations with Turkey is "the most rigorous framework presented so far", by the Commission, as it will propose benchmarks for opening and closing the 35 chapters of the document, the commissioner insisted.

"We [the EU] focus less on words and more on deeds", he said.

The document also confirms that decisions concerning the establishment of freedom of movement of persons should be mostly up to the member states.

Not a member before 2014

Turkey is urged to respect the principle of good neighbouring relations - a veiled reference to the Republic of Cyprus and to Armenia, before becoming an EU member, however.

Ankara has not officially recognised Cyprus as a state yet, and it also declines to describe the Armenian killings during World War I as genocide.

"We expect Turkey to continue the normalisation of relations with the Republic of Cyprus...and to be constructive in searching a settlement in the reunification of Cyprus", commissioner Rehn told journalists.

He also confirmed that "Turkey will not become a member of the EU today or tomorrow".

And the document states that as the country's accession could have "substantial financial consequences", negotiations could only be closed after the next financial framework - starting in 2014 - is agreed.

"The EU will do very badly if we are not able to settle our budgetary problems before Turkey fulfils the criteria of becoming a member state", the enlargement commissioner underlined.

A lively debate

The document was agreed only after a "lengthy, argumentative and very political debate" of the EU commissioners, said Mr Rehn to explain the two-hour delay of the press conference announcing the agreement.

"There is no denying that privileged partnership with Turkey [instead of a full membership] was brought up in the debate", he admitted.

Lately, Austria has voiced preference for a "privileged partnership" with Turkey, and the Christian-Democrat opposition in Germany has made similar noises.

In France, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also tipped to be the next French president [in 2007], has always favoured the idea.

But it had not been brought up in public by European commissioners so far.

Asked if, politically speaking, it was realistic to envisage that the framework will be approved by member states by unanimity, as it has to be, commissioner Rehn said that the governments of all 25 EU members had agreed that Turkey should start membership talks on 3 October - something that was settled during the European Council in December 2004, and confirmed in June this year.

That is why "I have no reason to suspect that EU leaders would not stick to their word", he said, adding "the EU is a community of commitments".

If member states do approve the draft, and if Turkey signs the protocol extending a customs agreement it has with the EU to the ten new member states, including Cyprus, accession negotiations should be started on 3 October.

Turkey is expected to sign the protocol within a few weeks, commissioner Rehn said, and member states should discuss the framework - with a possibility to modify it - in July or September.

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