Ankara expecting EU to open chapter 17 soon

Ankara expecting EU to open chapter 17 soon

Sevil Erkuş KONYA
Ankara expecting EU to open chapter 17 soon

EU Minister and Volkan Bozkır (L) speaks to the Daily News on board the high-speed train from Ankara to Konya.

Turkey has given the European Commission a revised position paper for European Union accession chapter 17, economic and monetary policies, and expects the bloc to open the chapter in eight weeks’ time, EU Minister Volkan Bozkir has told Hürriyet Daily News.

Recalling that France lifted a blockage on some chapters after François Hollande replaced Turkey-skeptic Nicholas Sarkozy as president, Bozkır expressed his expectation that chapter 17 will be opened in two months, just before parliamentary elections slated for June 7.

“Under normal conditions and in the absence of political obstacles, this chapter can be opened in eight weeks. We’ll welcome it if it is opened; if it isn’t, we’ll continue our works as we have been doing so far. Opening chapters is the responsibility of the EU,” he said. Turkey and the union will increase bilateral dialogue in the upcoming term as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plans a visit to Brussels in 2015.

Earlier, Turkish officials intimated that the visit would occur in April, but Bozkır said it was likely to take place later as both sides’ schedule is busy for April. Ankara and Brussels are in talks to hold a Turkey-EU Summit upon Turkish leaders’ request to make ties more visible.

The president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, will pay a visit to Turkey on April 7-8, Bozkır said, adding that a Turkey-EU partnership commission meeting will be held on May 18.

As part of efforts to protect Turkey from damage that will emerge if the EU concludes trade agreements with third parties, Turkish officials will participate in the meetings of the EU Trade Committee as an observer, the minister said.

Turkey and the EU will upgrade their Customs Union agreement to include agriculture, public procurement and the service sector, he said, adding that the parties would kick off negotiations on the agreement at the end of 2015 after the European Council authorizes the European Commission to do so.

Turkey remains worried that a U.S.-EU trade pact would mean it cannot charge any duties on U.S. products, as a result of its Customs Union with the EU, even though its products would continue to be subject to U.S. duties.

Bozkır also downplayed plans to establish a “European Army.” “I don’t think they will be able to establish one. There are member states which have strong armies. But the number of states that are ready for the concept of a European army is too few,” he said.

Asked about the European Commission’s energy chief’s recent remarks as to whether a decision to build a pipeline to transport Russian gas through Turkey should be made in consultation with the EU, Bozkır said the bloc should have talks with Brussels if needed, not Turkey.

Turkey has decided to undertake a feasibility study for Turkish Stream. If there is a decision to extend the pipeline into the EU, it will be done following negotiations between Russia and the union, he said, adding that Turkey was not participating in the talks.