Top business group chair voices concern over Turkey’s EU accession

Top business group chair voices concern over Turkey’s EU accession

Top business group chair voices concern over Turkey’s EU accession

Muharrem Yılmaz hands AXA chairman Henri de Castries this year’s TÜSİAD Bosphorus Prize for European Understanding, in Istanbul March 6. DHA photo

Ankara’s EU accession process, which started in 2005, is currently at a highly “unsuccessful” juncture with regards to both Turkey and the European Union, Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD) head Muharrem Yılmaz has said at a ceremony in Istanbul.

“Turkey has only been able to open 14 chapters on technical issues. We cannot say that either Turkey or the EU is making efforts that would be adequate to finalize the process with full membership,” Yılmaz said March 6 at the TÜSİAD Bosphorus Prize for European Understanding in Istanbul.

Arguing that certain parties on both sides had postulated during the negotiations that “the process would become stuck at some point regardless,” Yılmaz criticized those who used the accession talks for political means, instead of targeting potential EU membership.

“It shouldn’t be forgotten that Turkey’s greatest political gain through the EU membership process is democratization. Had the EU Commission’s Progress Report in 2004 not mentioned that Turkey fulfilled the Copenhagen criteria, we would not be at this point. Our fear is about regressing from these great gains. In order to stop this negative trend, we all have important tasks,” he said.

Yılmaz praised Henri de Castries, chairman and CEO of AXA, as “one of the most important business leaders in France and an international leader with intellectual creativity, as well as a global outreach,” while handing this year’s prize to him. He mentioned that de Castries is “a Turk’s true friend” and that his great grandfather had once worked in the Ottoman Empire to build lighthouses.

TÜSİAD Bosphorus Prize for European Understanding on foreign policy was designed to help overcome the obstacles in Turkey’s EU accession process by emphasizing the common values of both sides.

Yılmaz also welcomed François Hollande’s election as president of France in 2012, which led to a positive change in the attitude of Paris in regards to Turkey’s EU membership. “It was very important that France removed its blockage, so the 22nd chapter titled ‘Regional Policies’ could be negotiated,” he said, adding that Turkey would like to see Hollande keep his promise to remove vetoes on Chapters 23 and 24 as well.

While receiving the prize, de Castries, who is a co-founder of Institut du Bosphore, which was established in Paris in 2009, stressed the world is currently passing through an era of transformation at a scale even more fundamental than the Industrial Revolution. Praising the Turkish “conquerors” in the global business community, “Whenever information can travel freely, there is more freedom,” de Castries said.