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External Relations - EU Enlargement: a successful policy
An associate member since 1963, in 1995 Turkey signed the Customs Union with the EU, and in 1999 the Helsinki European Council awarded Turkey candidate country status. The December 2004 European Council decided on the opening of negotiations, under specific conditions and prerequisites, given that Turkey adequately, though not fully, satisfied the Copenhagen political criteria, the satisfaction of which is a prerequisite for the opening of negotiations.
The accession negotiations opened on 3 October 2005. The Negotiation Framework with Turkey, beyond the Copenhagen Criteria, provides for additional criteria based on which progress in the negotiations is assessed. These criteria include the maintaining of good neighbourly relations, support for the efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue, normalization of relations with the Republic of Cyprus, and the full and indiscriminate implementation of the Additional Protocol to the 1963 Ankara Agreement (Protocol extending the EU-Turkey Customs Union to the 10 new EU member states of the 2004 Enlargement).
Today, of a total of thirty-five Negotiation Chapters of the community acquis, fifteen have opened, with one of those fifteen having been closed temporarily. Just recently, at the Intergovernmental Conference held in Brussels on 14 December 2015, Chapter 17, on “Economic and monetary policy,” was opened, after two years of stagnancy in the accession negotiations. This long delay has resulted mainly from Turkey’s ongoing refusal to comply with its contractual obligation to the EU and its member states to fully implement the Additional Protocol. In this context, the EU decided in December 2006 to impose certain “sanctions” on Turkey (eight Negotiation Chapters will not open, none will close), which has directly impacted the accession negotiations. Moreover, Turkey has not made progress in meeting other prerequisites of the Negotiation Framework, such as maintaining good neighbourly relations.
The European Commission’s Enlargement Package for this year (Enlargement Strategy and Progress Reports on candidate countries, including the Progress Report on Turkey), which was published on 10 November 2015, notes, among other things, backsliding with regard to respect for the principles of rule of law and fundamental rights (in particular, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly), while Turkey is called upon to bolster efforts to protect minorities.
Due to the ongoing refugee/migration crisis, the European Council Conclusions of 15 October 2015 raised the issue of dealing with (reducing) the refugee/migration flows towards the EU as a factor now impacting EU-Turkish relations. At the same time, note was made of the need to reactivate the accession negotiations, in accordance with the Negotiating Framework and the related Council Conclusions, which go into detail on the terms and conditions for Turkey’s accession to the EU.
These issues were also discussed at the EU-Turkey Summit Meeting (Brussels, 29 November 2015), at which the joint Action Plan on migration was put into effect.
The conclusions of the General Affairs Council meeting of 15 December 2015 make it clear, once again, that the rate of progress in the accession negotiations depends on Turkey itself and its compliance with the prerequisites and its contractual obligations to the EU. Regarding issues of specific interest to our country, it was a positive development that, once again, Turkey is called upon to commit to good neighbourly relations and the avoidance of threats or actions against EU member states, pursuant to everything set down in the European Commission Progress Report. Turkey is also called upon to respect all of the sovereign rights of the member states of the EU, including their air- and maritime space, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Also underscored is the need for further reforms with regard to minority rights and the need to comply with European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rulings (article 46, European Convention on Human Rights).
With regard to Cyprus, Turkey is called upon to implement the Additional Protocol to the EU-Turkey Association Agreement, as well as to implement, with all the member states – and, therefore, with Cyprus – the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement and the visa Roadmap, while there is confirmation of the right of EU member states to exploit natural resources in their territorial waters. Moreover, Turkey’s compliance with the above and the normalization of its relations with Cyprus could lend impetus to the accession negotiations.
The GAC Conclusions also provide for continuation and strengthening of sectoral dialogues (political, economic, energy, on terrorism issues, and on visa liberalization) with Turkey.
Greece supports Turkey’s accession to the EU on the condition of compliance with all conditions and prerequisites, without exception. We believe that an active and credible accession process, with the conditionality provided for, constitutes a strong incentive for changes and the sole and most appropriate framework for the reforms needed in Turkey. We thus support the whole endeavor, pointing up the European dimension of issues of special interest to us throughout the whole framework of EU-Turkey relations (e.g., Association Council) and, mainly, in the individual Negotiation Chapters of the Accession Negotiations. In this context, it is noted that the 53rd EU-Turkey Association Council took place on 18 May 2015.
As provided for in the Negotiation Framework, in the annual Progress Reports, as well as in a number of Conclusions of the European Council and the Council, we put particular emphasis on (a) respect for the sovereign rights of the member states to explore for and exploit their natural resources, (b) the revocation of the state of war against our country, (c) Turkey’s meeting of its obligations to the Republic of Cyprus (Additional Protocol, normalization of relations with the Republic of Cyprus), (d) effective handling of irregular migration from the east, (e) Turkey’s accession to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which is a community acquis, (f) Turkey’s offending conduct in the Aegean as a problem that, among other things, concerns the safety of flights in the region, and (g) the defence of the rights of the Greek minority in Turkey and of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.