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Turkey: the Commission recommends opening accession negotiations
In its Communication of October 2004 the European Commission finds that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria and recommends opening accession negotiations with Turkey. It does however set certain conditions for opening negotiations. It suggests a strategy based on three pillars.
In the Commission's view the final objective, accession, is clear but it cannot be guaranteed in advance.
Communication of 6 October 2004 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey's progress towards accession [COM(2004) 656 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
The Commission considers that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria and suggests opening accession negotiations subject to certain conditions. It also proposes - for the first time - establishing a tight framework for the negotiations using a three-pillar strategy.
The Commission stresses that accession cannot take place before 2014, and that it must be thoroughly prepared to allow for smooth integration and to avoid endangering the achievements of over fifty years of European integration.
Opening negotiations subject to conditions
In the light of the changes that have taken place in Turkey in recent years, the Commission considers that it sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria. It has made substantial progress with political reform, in particular through the far-reaching constitutional and legislative changes adopted in recent years in line with the priorities set out in the Accession Partnership. However, the Law on Associations, the new Penal Code and the Law on Intermediate Courts of Appeal have not yet entered into force. Moreover, the Code on Criminal Procedure, the legislation establishing the judicial police and the law on execution of punishments have yet to be adopted.
Turkey is making serious efforts to ensure proper implementation of these reforms. Nevertheless, legislation and implementation measures need to be further consolidated and broadened. This applies specifically to the zero tolerance policy in the fight against torture and ill-treatment and the implementation of provisions relating to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, women's rights, International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards including trade union rights, and minority rights.
In view of the overall progress already achieved with reforms, and provided that Turkey brings into force the outstanding legislation mentioned above, the Commission recommends that accession negotiations be opened. It proposes that when opened, they should be organised around three pillars.
The first pillar concerns cooperation to reinforce and support the reform process in Turkey, in particular in relation to the continued fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria. The EU will therefore monitor the progress of the political reforms closely. This will be done on the basis of a revised Accession Partnership setting out priorities for the reform process. Starting at the end of 2005 there will be an annual general review of the progress of political reforms. To this end, the Commission will present a first report to the European Council in December 2005.
The Commission may also recommend suspending the negotiations if there is a serious and persistent breach of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms or the rule of law on which the Union is founded. If such a recommendation is made, the Council may, by a qualified majority, decide to suspend negotiations.
The second pillar concerns the specific way in which accession negotiations with Turkey are to be approached. They will be held in the framework of an Intergovernmental Conference consisting of all Member States of the EU. For each chapter of the negotiations, the Council must lay down benchmarks for the provisional closure of negotiations, including a satisfactory track record on implementation of the acquis. Existing legal obligations relating to alignment with the acquis must be fulfilled before negotiations on the chapters concerned are closed. Long transition periods may be necessary.
In some spheres, such as structural policies and agriculture, specific arrangements may be needed. The Commission is considering permanent safeguards concerning the free movement of workers. Turkey's accession is also likely to have an important financial and institutional impact. The EU will therefore need to define its financial perspective for the period from 2014 before negotiations can be concluded.
The third pillar entails enhanced political and cultural dialogue between the people of the EU Member States and Turkey. This includes a dialogue on cultural differences, religion, migration issues and concerns about minority rights and terrorism. Civil society should play the most important role in this dialogue, which the EU will facilitate.
Assessment of issues raised by Turkey's possible accession
As well as the Regular Report on Turkey and its recommendation, the Commission has also presented a detailed impact study on issues raised by Turkey's possible accession to the European Union. The study concludes that Turkey's accession would be a challenge for both the EU and Turkey. If well managed, it could offer important opportunities for both. The necessary preparations for accession would last well into the next decade. The EU will evolve over this period, and Turkey should change even more radically. The Community acquis, i.e. the whole body of EU policies and legislation, will develop further and respond to the needs of an EU of 27 or more. Its development may also anticipate the challenges and opportunities of Turkey's accession.
Relations between the EU and Turkey go back a long way. In 1963 Turkey and the European Economic Community entered into an Association Agreement which referred to the possibility of membership. In 1995, a customs union was formed and, in Helsinki in December 1999, the European Council decided to grant Turkey the official status of an accession candidate. It considered at that point that the country had the basic features of a democratic system but displayed serious shortcomings in terms of human rights and the protection of minorities.
Against this background, in December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council concluded that the European Council of December 2004 should decide on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission whether Turkey fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria and, accordingly, whether the EU would open accession negotiations with Turkey.
This summary is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document.