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050629|MDS|Frequently asked questions about Turkey-EU
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29 June 2005 | Reuters | Brussels

EU Plans Tough Talks on Turkey

The European Union's executive branch was expected to propose a plan Wednesday for membership talks with Turkey amid rising skepticism over EU expansion.

The plan, a European Commission draft negotiating mandate, must be approved by all 25 member states. And there may be wrangling now that the climate has become less favorable to Turkey in the six months since EU leaders agreed to open the negotiations.

Voters in France and the Netherlands have rejected an EU constitution a month ago, prompting some senior European politicians to call for slowing expansion.

"We have to suspend enlargement at least until the institutions have been modernized," Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister and presidential hopeful, said Monday.

Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democrats in Germany who is expected by many to be the next chancellor, has said that the Turks should be offered only a "privileged partnership." She has not raised any explicit objection to the start of talks on Oct. 3.

The one person who voted against the European Commission's conclusion last year that Turkey had met the human rights criteria renewed his assault in a magazine interview published Tuesday.

"We have to halt the negotiations with Turkey," Frits Bolkestein of the Netherlands, the former EU commissioner for the internal market, told Humo, a Belgian magazine. He added that "the talks would be a slap in the face for the French and Dutch" and that Turkey was "too big, too poor and too different."

The language EU leaders adopted in inviting Turkey to talks was tougher than that applied to previous candidates. There are expected to be 35 chapters for the talks, more than ever before, in areas like agriculture, the economy and justice.

Member states will have to agree unanimously before opening talks on each chapter and then vote unanimously that the terms of each chapter have been implemented. This was not the case for countries joining in the last enlargement.

Kurdish rebel seeks talks

A senior commander of the Kurdistan Workers' Party called for Turkey to follow the example of the United States in Iraq and to start talks over the mounting violence in southeast Turkey, Agence France-Presse reported from Ankara.

"Let us start talks to find a solution. Send us an official for discussions," the commander, Murat Karayilan, said Tuesday in remarks published on the Web site of MHA, a pro-Kurdish news agency.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the Kurdistan Workers' Party, also called PKK, a terrorist organization.

Turkey has ruled out talks with the PKK.

Karayilan cited recent announcements that U.S. officials were holding talks with Iraqi insurgents and suggested that Turkey copy this method.

"Look at the United States," Karayilan said. "It said it is holding talks even with organizations and people fighting against it with all means and no rules."

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29 June 2005 | Mezopotamian Development Society | Brussels

Frequently asked questions about the accession negotiations and Turkey-EU relations

Why is the Commission proposing a negotiating framework for Turkey just now?

The European Union decided at the highest political level in December 2004 that accession negotiations with Turkey should be opened on 3 October 2005, provided Turkey brings into force 6 pieces of legislation on political reforms. On 1 June 2005 Turkey fulfilled this condition. Turkey also committed itself to signing the protocol extending the Ankara Agreement to the ten new Member States.

The Commission now has to deliver the draft negotiating mandate to the Council so as to allow a decision on it in a timely manner before 3 October 2005.

What is the negotiating framework?

The negotiating framework lays down the guiding principles and the procedures for the accession negotiations. It serves as basis for the Member States to conduct the negotiations with Turkey.

How long will it take for Turkey to join the EU?

Turkey’s accession is certainly not for tomorrow. The pace of the negotiations will largely depend on the capacity of Turkey to make the necessary reforms. It will be a lengthy and sometimes difficult process that could take a decade or more.

What is the history of relations between Turkey and the EU?

Contractual relations between Turkey and the EU go back to 1963, when the ‘Ankara Agreement’, which is an association agreement, was signed. Turkey first applied for membership 1987. The Commission’s Opinion on this application from 1989 concludes that it would not be useful to open accession negotiations with Turkey straight away, but at the same time relations with Turkey should be intensified. In 1995 the Customs Union has been established. In 1997, Turkey’s eligibility for accession to the EU was confirmed by the Luxembourg European Council. In 1999 the Helsinki European Council granted candidate country status to Turkey. In December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council decided that if Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria[1], the EU will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay. In December 2004 the European Council concluded that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the political criteria to open accession negotiations on 3 October 2005.

What are the Ankara Agreement and the Customs Union?

The Ankara Agreement is an Association Agreement signed between Turkey and the European Communities (today the EU) in 1963. The cornerstone of this agreement is the establishment of a customs union in three stages, the last having been reached in 1995 with the signature of a Customs Union agreement.

What is the protocol of the Ankara Agreement?

The protocol extends the Ankara Agreement to all EU Member States.

What are the six pieces of legislation?

Law on Associations, Penal Code, Law on Intermediate Courts of Appeal, Code of Criminal Procedure, legislation establishing the judicial police, and law on execution of punishments.

What is the substance of the accession negotiations?

Every candidate country has to adopt the rights and obligations of EU membership, and fully apply them by the time of accession, unless transitional arrangements have been agreed.

The ‘acquis communautaire’, i.e. the whole set of EU legislation and policies, are broken down into 35 chapters and negotiations are conducted chapter by chapter.

How are the accession negotiations conducted?

Accession negotiations with candidate countries are conducted in an Intergovernmental Conference, where the 25 Member States are directly negotiating with the candidate country. The 25 Member States agree by unanimity each common position of the European Union.

What is the role of the European Commission?

Based on a mandate of the Member States, the Commission prepares all the draft common positions of the European Union during the accession negotiations. The Commission monitors the progress made by the candidate country and publishes a comprehensive report on the state of play every year. This report includes a thorough assessment of the candidate country’s compliance with all the EU criteria: political, economic, and for each of the negotiating chapters.

What happens if there are major political problems in Turkey, relating to fundamental freedoms and human rights?

The negotiating framework, based on the conclusions of the December European Council, includes a mechanism for possible suspension of negotiations in case of ‘serious and persistent breach’ of basic democratic principles.

Will the Commission ensure that human rights are respected?

The Commission will continue its rigorous system of monitoring Turkey’s compliance with all the political criteria. This includes contacts with the Council of Europe, international and national NGOs, as well as regular meetings with the Turkish authorities where both the state of legal reforms and their implementation are closely examined.

Furthermore, the Commission will present, as part of the Autumn enlargement package, a revised Accession Partnership, which will include detailed priorities to be addressed by Turkey with regard to the political criteria.

Krisztina Nagy: 02-298 8663
Patricia O’Connor: 02-299 0501

[1] Political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, and later enshrined in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union and proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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