Turkey prepares for bittersweet EU report

Turkey prepares for bittersweet EU report

Emine Kart BRUSSELS – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey prepares for bittersweet EU report

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session in Strasbourg. REUTERS photo

By highlighting potential mutual benefits of resolving obstacles to Turkey’s full membership bid, Brussels seems to have aimed at energizing its relationship with Turkey with its annual progress report to be released today [Oct. 16]. 

“Positive,” was the word particularly and insistently used by a senior EU diplomat while describing the overall tone of the report, which he added would certainly not ignore negative developments such as the government’s response to the Gezi Park unrest.

“One of the right responses to be given to Turkey is not to ‘disengage’ but to ‘engage’ through a perspective based on reforms,” the EU diplomat, who requested anonymity,” told the Hürriyet Daily News on Oct. 15.

“Accordingly, the report will call for an early holding of an intergovernmental conference for discussing the opening of the Chapter 22,” the diplomat said, referring to the Chapter on Regional Policies and Coordination of Structural Instruments.

The opening of negotiations with Turkey on the Chapter 22 is already on the agenda of the Oct. 22 meeting of the General Affairs Council of the EU Council and they are expected to set Nov. 5 as the date of the intergovernmental conference, in line with the call within the report.

“The report will have a crystal clear and totally unambiguous message that holding the intergovernmental conference as soon as possible is in our interest,” the diplomat said, indicating that the report will also indicate mutual benefits of providing Turkey a prospect for opening of the Chapter 23, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, and Chapter 24, Justice, Freedom and Security.

“What better tool do we have to help Turkey? And otherwise, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot,” the EU diplomat said, in a bid to elaborate on the fundamentals of the EU’s approach to Turkey which will be reflected in today’s report.

“The report will be quite forward looking without hiding concerns over the Gezi issue,” he added, noting that the EU would also pay credit to the recently announced “democratization package,” and the Kurdish peace process - the ongoing process aimed at resolving the almost century-old Kurdish issue through ending the three-decade old conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Recalling that while announcing on Sept. 30 a set of new reforms dubbed the "democratization package,"  Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan clearly referred to the EU process, the EU diplomat said they had interpreted such a reference as an “acknowledgement” that Turkey still had a lot to gain through its EU membership process and its eventual membership.