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Brussels, 29th June 2005

Frequently asked questions about the accession negotiations and Turkey-EU relations

Why is the Commission proposing a negotiating framework for Turkey just now?

The European Union decided at the highest political level in December 2004 that accession negotiations with Turkey should be opened on 3 October 2005, provided Turkey brings into force 6 pieces of legislation on political reforms. On 1 June 2005 Turkey fulfilled this condition. Turkey also committed itself to signing the protocol extending the Ankara Agreement to the ten new Member States.

The Commission now has to deliver the draft negotiating mandate to the Council so as to allow a decision on it in a timely manner before 3 October 2005.

What is the negotiating framework?

The negotiating framework lays down the guiding principles and the procedures for the accession negotiations. It serves as basis for the Member States to conduct the negotiations with Turkey.

How long will it take for Turkey to join the EU?

Turkey’s accession is certainly not for tomorrow. The pace of the negotiations will largely depend on the capacity of Turkey to make the necessary reforms. It will be a lengthy and sometimes difficult process that could take a decade or more.

What is the history of relations between Turkey and the EU?

Contractual relations between Turkey and the EU go back to 1963, when the ‘Ankara Agreement’, which is an association agreement, was signed. Turkey first applied for membership 1987. The Commission’s Opinion on this application from 1989 concludes that it would not be useful to open accession negotiations with Turkey straight away, but at the same time relations with Turkey should be intensified. In 1995 the Customs Union has been established. In 1997, Turkey’s eligibility for accession to the EU was confirmed by the Luxembourg European Council. In 1999 the Helsinki European Council granted candidate country status to Turkey. In December 2002 the Copenhagen European Council decided that if Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria[1], the EU will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay. In December 2004 the European Council concluded that Turkey sufficiently fulfils the political criteria to open accession negotiations on 3 October 2005.

What are the Ankara Agreement and the Customs Union?

The Ankara Agreement is an Association Agreement signed between Turkey and the European Communities (today the EU) in 1963. The cornerstone of this agreement is the establishment of a customs union in three stages, the last having been reached in 1995 with the signature of a Customs Union agreement.

What is the protocol of the Ankara Agreement?

The protocol extends the Ankara Agreement to all EU Member States.

What are the six pieces of legislation?

Law on Associations, Penal Code, Law on Intermediate Courts of Appeal, Code of Criminal Procedure, legislation establishing the judicial police, and law on execution of punishments.

What is the substance of the accession negotiations?

Every candidate country has to adopt the rights and obligations of EU membership, and fully apply them by the time of accession, unless transitional arrangements have been agreed.

The ‘acquis communautaire’, i.e. the whole set of EU legislation and policies, are broken down into 35 chapters and negotiations are conducted chapter by chapter.

How are the accession negotiations conducted?

Accession negotiations with candidate countries are conducted in an Intergovernmental Conference, where the 25 Member States are directly negotiating with the candidate country. The 25 Member States agree by unanimity each common position of the European Union.

What is the role of the European Commission?

Based on a mandate of the Member States, the Commission prepares all the draft common positions of the European Union during the accession negotiations. The Commission monitors the progress made by the candidate country and publishes a comprehensive report on the state of play every year. This report includes a thorough assessment of the candidate country’s compliance with all the EU criteria: political, economic, and for each of the negotiating chapters.

What happens if there are major political problems in Turkey, relating to fundamental freedoms and human rights?

The negotiating framework, based on the conclusions of the December European Council, includes a mechanism for possible suspension of negotiations in case of ‘serious and persistent breach’ of basic democratic principles.

Will the Commission ensure that human rights are respected?

The Commission will continue its rigorous system of monitoring Turkey’s compliance with all the political criteria. This includes contacts with the Council of Europe, international and national NGOs, as well as regular meetings with the Turkish authorities where both the state of legal reforms and their implementation are closely examined.

Furthermore, the Commission will present, as part of the Autumn enlargement package, a revised Accession Partnership, which will include detailed priorities to be addressed by Turkey with regard to the political criteria.

[1] Political criteria set by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, and later enshrined in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union and proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

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