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27th Nov 2022

Brussels puts toughest-ever entry talks regime on Turks and Croats

The European Commission on Thursday (20 October) started the screening of Turkish and Croatian legislation – the first step in preparing accession negotiations with the two countries.

The kick-off of Brussels' examination of Ankara and Zagreb’s legislation comes after both countries received the green light from EU member states on 3 October to open membership talks with the bloc.

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  • Current troubles with Romania and Bulgaria have prompted Brussels to revise its strategy (Photo: Council)

A detailed screening of law books, which will take around one year, precedes the actual opening of the 35 negotiating chapters themselves.

But chapters, which cover different areas of law, can already be opened while others are still being screened, and the first chapter could possibly be opened at the beginning of next year, one commission source indicated.

The first chapter to be opened will not necessarily be an "easy" one such as science and research, for which screening started on Thursday.

A commission source said that contrary to previous enlargement rounds, Brussels wants to tackle difficult chapters at an early stage, naming agriculture and public procurement as examples of heavy policy dossiers.

"In the last enlargement round we did not start early enough with difficult chapters, leading to the impression with candidate states that the negotiations were easy".

"At a too late stage, we were faced with difficult issues".

The current troubles with the judiciary in Romania and Bulgaria, shortly before they are scheduled to join the EU in 2007, have been one important factor in prompting the revision of the commission's strategy, said another commission source.

Extra conditions on opening of chapters

On top of this, Brussels is ready to systematically impose conditions on Turkey and Croatia for the opening and closure of each individual chapter - an instrument which previous candidate member states only faced in exceptional circumstances.

"This is an important investment in the interest of candidate states", the source said, adding that this would prevent Ankara or Zagreb from making "commitments that at the end they would find difficult to fulfil".

In the case of Turkey, Brussels could demand as a precondition for opening the "free movement of goods" chapter, that Ankara fully implement the customs agreement it has signed with the EU.

In practical terms, this means that Ankara would be obliged to stop banning ships and planes from Cyprus - which is not recognised by the Turks - from its territory.

The opening and closing of each of the 35 negotiating chapters can only occur with the consent of all 25 EU member states - effectively providing member states with a possibility to block negotiations at any stage.

The commission source highlighted the EU's dominance in the accession preparations, saying that accession "negotiations" is in fact the "wrong word" to use, as there is "very little to negotiate about".

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