Turkey and the EU focus on ‘updated’ customs union agreement

Turkey and the EU focus on ‘updated’ customs union agreement

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
Turkey and the EU focus on ‘updated’ customs union agreement

Turkey wants to be included in free trade talks between the EU and non-member third parties, especially the planned deal between the EU and the US.

The issue of updating the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU to reflect Ankara’s concerns about the EU’s free trade agreements with third parties will be on the agenda of a visit from three high ranking EU officials to Ankara on Dec. 8, diplomatic sources have told the Hürriyet Daily News.

High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn and European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides are the three officials who will visit Turkey. In addition to Ankara, Mogherini and Stylianides will also visit Gaziantep and Kilis, home to a large number of Syrian refugees.

Talks between Ankara and Brussels on updating the Customs Union agreement will only be possible after the European Commission gets authorization from the European Council to launch such negotiations with Turkey, sources said, adding that the Commission could take this mandate in 2015.

Turkey wants to be included in free trade talks between the EU and non-member third parties. Free trade agreements between the EU and third parties enable non-EU countries’ goods to enter European markets or Turkish markets via Europe without duty charges, but Turkey’s exports to non-EU countries do not benefit from the same tariff reductions granted to the EU.

As a result, Turkey still faces high tariffs and non-tariff barriers. Turkey has been voicing its concern over a number of free trade agreements signed by the EU, and is especially concerned about ongoing negotiations for the deal between the EU and the U.S.

Meanwhile, as France has recently lifted its block on chapter 17 of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, Ankara is urging the EU to call for the opening of negotiations on the Chapter in the final declaration of a European Council meeting later this month. After the lifting of France’s blockage, only Greek Cypriots could object to the opening of Chapter 17, diplomatic sources said, expressing optimism that progress is possible during the current term presidency of Latvia.

Ankara urges Council for opening Chapter 17

The sources stress that a visit by three high ranking EU officials to Ankara is a first for the Commission and demonstrates its intention “to revive ties and maintain better dialogue between Ankara and Brussels.”

“This is what we want too,” one source said, stressing that one of the main reasons for this high profile visit is to underline the “visibility” of dialogue between the EU and Turkey.
Ankara expects an intensified exchange of visits with regular invitations for Turkish leaders to EU summits and informal meetings, which the EU has been reluctant to extend since the Lisbon treaty took effect.

The visit to Turkey next week, “is a strong indication of the strategic importance of the EU-Turkey relationship and our desire to step up engagement in view of shared interests and common challenges” said Mogherini in a written statement on Dec. 5.

“I reiterate Europe’s solidarity with Turkey, most notably the host communities who are generously hosting more than 1 million refugees from Syria and Iraq. Europe’s commitment to the victims of these crises remains unwavering. I am going there to assess the needs on the ground with my own eyes and to make sure that our humanitarian assistance continues to bring relief and hope in the most efficient way possible,” added Commissioner Stylianides.

Exclusion of Turkey from trade pact ‘unimaginable’

NEW YORK - Anadolu Agency

The exclusion of Turkey from the planned trade deal between the U.S. and EU is something unimaginable and Turkey will do whatever is necessary to be a part of it, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan has said during his visit to the U.S.

“It is something unimaginable for us to be excluded from such a huge trading structure. We will put in every effort to be a part of it,” Babacan said, referring to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal currently being negotiated between the U.S. and the 28-member EU.

He added that there are several options to ensure Turkey’s inclusion in the deal. “One of these options is to create a separate free trade agreement between the U.S. and Turkey ... Another option is the inclusion of Turkey into the 28-member European block as the 29th party,” he said.