EU urges opening key chapters with Turkey, despite lingering worries: Draft resolution

EU urges opening key chapters with Turkey, despite lingering worries: Draft resolution

Güven Özalp BRUSSELS
EU urges opening key chapters with Turkey, despite lingering worries: Draft resolution The European Union is planning to express support for opening three chapters concerning judiciary, freedom and economy with Turkey, despite highlighting concerns over Ankara’s handling of the aftermath of a graft crisis, according to a draft final resolution to be discussed during an upcoming EU leaders' meeting.

“The Council looks forward in due course to the definition of the opening benchmarks for the key Chapters 23 and 24 and their possible future opening,” reads the draft seen by daily Hürriyet.

The leaders of the 28 EU member countries are expected to gather for a summit in Brussels on Dec. 18 and 19 to discuss a number of issues.

Opening benchmarks for Chapter 23, on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and Chapter 24, on justice, freedom and security, have been on the EU’s agenda as part of Turkey’s membership bid, but the Greek Cypriot government's veto has been impeding the process.

Encouraging Turkey “to work on reforms that should provide for adequate checks and balances fully guaranteeing freedom,” the draft also keeps an account of the EU’s concerns over political interference in the judiciary in Turkey.

“The Council remains concerned at the undue interference by the executive in the judiciary, frequent changes to key legislation without due consultation of stakeholders and restrictions on access to information,” the draft says.

Within this respect, the statement also emphasizes the 28-nation bloc’s worries over the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s way of dealing the corruption allegations. 

“The Council regrets that the response by the government to the alleged cases of corruption in December 2013 cast serious doubts over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and demonstrated an increasing intolerance of political opposition, public protest and critical media,” it states.

“In this regard, the Council emphasizes the important role of the Constitutional Court and takes positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which should be further supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder,” the statement added.

Emphasis on economic cooperation

Meanwhile, the draft also indicates the bloc’s will for progress in economic cooperation by issuing a call for opening Chapter 17 that concerns economy and monetary policies.

“Given the strong economic links between Turkey and the EU, the Council calls for the development of a high-level economic dialogue. Progress under Chapter 17 [economic and monetary policy] would in due course further support such dialogue and encourage alignment with the acquis,” the draft reads.

The shift in the EU’s stance regarding the discussion of economic integration came after France signaled it will ease its block on opening the chapter in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations.

The draft also marks one of the most tangible remarks from the EU side regarding Turkey’s insistence on updating the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU to reflect Ankara’s concerns about the EU’s free trade agreements with third parties.

The draft says the council “looks forward to discussions with the Commission on the Customs Union,” asserting solutions will be sought “also in light of the publication of the World Bank study completed in 2014.”

Turkey has been voicing its concern over a number of FTAs signed by the EU, especially the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the U.S. But the EU was reluctant to address the problem directly, insisting the issue should be settled through a separate Turkish-U.S. deal.

The World Bank report referred to in the draft says the Customs Union is beneficial to both Turkey and the EU, yet the smooth implementation of the scheme is at risk if the problems that have risen due to economic changes are not tackled.