Turkey moves to break EU bid standstill

Turkey moves to break EU bid standstill

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey moves to break EU bid standstill

Turkey’s EU minister Bağış (L) shakes hands with bloc’s Commissioner Füle. DAILY NEWS PHOTO

Ankara and the European Union launched a “positive agenda” to prepare Turkey for harmonization in the areas related to blocked chapters, in a move to break the two-year standstill in the country’s membership talks.

“Our aim is to keep the accession process alive and put it properly back on track after a period of stagnation, which has been a source of frustration on both sides,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle told reporters yesterday at a joint press conference with EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış.
As a first step, working groups will be formed to carry out studies on eight chapters. The EU delegation started the first group’s work yesterday on Chapter 23, which covers issues related to the judiciary and fundamental rights, with the participation of Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin.

Turkey and the EU formally started accession negotiations in 2005, but since then Ankara has opened only 13 of 35 policy chapters due to the political blockage of Greek Cyprus and France.

The Enlargement Strategy Paper published last October by the EU Commission included the proposal of creating a ‘’Positive Agenda’’ in Turkish-EU relations.

Turkey and the commission have agreed to set up eight working groups on chapters, where Turkey will be offered support and guidance for further alignment with EU legislation.

Bağış said the “Positive Agenda” was not an alternative to accession talks, but rather aimed at supporting reforms and speeding up the process.

The move “is not to replace but to complement and support the accession process of Turkey,” said Füle.
“At the same time, it is not an abstract concept, not a window dressing. It is about a new way of looking at accession negotiations. It is the new way we communicate and interact with each other. It is the way we look at each other as two equal partners,” he said.

Füle listed the following areas as important to align with EU legislation: political reforms and fundamental rights, visa, mobility and migration, trade, energy, counter-terrorism and dialogue on foreign policy.

Bağış said three chapters were ready, but that Turkey was not willing to open chapters which all candidate states leave to the last stage of accession negotiations.

Lending support to Turkey’s position, Füle said the three mentioned chapters were not easy, and candidate countries usually prefer to tackle them at the last stage of the negotiations. Still, the EU Commission was ready to support Turkey to move ahead on all of them, Füle added.

In his meeting with Füle, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the EU should not turn in on itself, and instead maintain its vision of enlargement in order to turn the current crisis in Europe into an opportunity, according to prime ministry officials.