Chilly ties of EU, Turkey seeing thaw
BRUSSELS / ANKARA
Ankara is moving in the right direction to the EU, says Bağış. Daily News PhotoTurkish-EU relations might be warming up just in time for winter after a recent European Union enlargement report section on Turkey mentioned the term “accession” for the first time in five years.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition was the main reason behind the past exclusion, but François Hollande’s succession following elections has effected change.
“It is in both sides’ interests that the accession talks gain a fresh momentum in the shortest possible time,” said the EU General Affairs Council on Dec. 11. The commission said Turkey was a key partner for the EU, adding that “the full potential of Turkey-EU relations can only be [realized] through active accession negotiations.”
EU Minister Egemen Bağış welcomed the conclusions, describing them as “an indicator showing that the progress made by our government along the EU process and the steps that it will take in the upcoming period are on the right direction.”
A day after the EU meeting, Turkey said it had stressed its commitment to EU membership as a “strategic choice” and called on Brussels to “create renewed momentum” in Turkey’s accession process despite finding faults in certain conclusions on enlargement document.
“We aim to preserve and carry forward our relations with the EU, which are multidimensional, deep-rooted and have approximately 50 years of history. With a view to achieving this fundamental strategic choice, we expect the EU, in line with its existing commitments, to take steps that would serve our common interests and create renewed momentum in our accession process,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a written statement released yesterday.
Turkey and the EU formally began accession negotiations in 2005, but Ankara has since then opened only 13 out of 35 policy chapters, successfully closing only one.
“Turkey has regretfully still not made progress toward the necessary normalization of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus,” said a recent EU report.
“The part of the conclusions concerning Cyprus is yet another demonstration that the EU has become a party in this issue. We expect that in the future, the EU will act with common sense and foresight on this problem,” Ankara said.
It was a great disappointment for both Turkey and the EU that the Greek Cypriot administration had been displaying an approach that hijacks the EU’s future, Bağış said.
The Turkish capital also reiterated its expectation for visa exemptions for Turkish citizens entering EU countries.
“The only candidate country whose citizens do not enjoy visa-free travel to the EU is Turkey. We hope that the EU takes the necessary steps to remedy this unfair situation without further delay,” the ministry said.
The report also said the EU encouraged Turkey to draft a new Constitution for the country, saying it should provide “a practical framework in Turkey’s important reform efforts, including the Kurdish issue.”
The European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, Ria Oomen-Ruijten, also expressed concern about the judicial system in Turkey after recent developments in the legal proceedings against sociologist Pınar Selek, which have been continuing for over 14 years now despite three acquittal decisions. The 12th Istanbul Court of Serious Crimes decided last month to amend its decision to acquit Selek on charges of involvement in a deadly bombing at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar in 1998. The court instead requested that she be sentenced to life imprisonment and set a new hearing for today.