A Turkish delegation headed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will meet high-level European Union (EU) officials in a critical summit in Brussels for the first time after 11 years in order to discuss various issues surrounding Turkey’s membership to the 28-member bloc.
Davutoglu said, “Turkey-EU summit have been carrying various dimensions which will accelerate the relations between Turkey and the EU,” in a press conference in Ankara on Nov. 29 before leaving for the meeting with the EU officials.
“It is the first time since 2004 there will be a summit at this comprehensive level,” he emphasised.
He has also underlined the fact that the summit represents the first action his new Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been taking on following its formation after the party won a resounding victory on Nov. 1 elections.
“Our new government’s first job is to realise this summit which is a step with an utmost importance. The summit’s preparations have been going on for a long time,” he stated.
Davutoglu has outlined that Turkey will negotiate on the matter of several significant issues with the EU including opening new chapters, ensuring visa exemption for its citizens, the growing refugee crisis at the gates of Europe, and the new Russian crisis after Turkish F-16s downed a Russian warplane earlier this week in northwestern Syria over airspace violation.
Reuters has reported that they accessed a draft text of the summit which seems to address these particular issues.
“Both sides will, as agreed and with immediate effect, step up their active cooperation on migrants who are not in need of international protection, preventing travel to Turkey and the EU, ensuring the application of the established bilateral readmission provisions and swiftly returning migrants who are not in need of international protection to their countries of origin," the draft text has stated.
The draft has offered a financial aid to Turkey on the refugee crisis which has affected the country more than any other nation.
"The need for and nature of this funding will be reviewed in the light of the developing situation. As Turkey hosts more than 2.2 million Syrians and as it has spent $8 billion, the EU thus underlined the importance of burden-sharing within the framework of Turkey-EU cooperation," the draft recounted.
The draft also said, "Both sides agree that the EU-Turkey readmission agreement will become fully applicable from June 2016."
The draft has promised "completing the visa liberalization process i.e. the lifting of visa requirements for Turkish citizens in the Schengen zone by October 2016 once the requirements of the Roadmap are met," according to Reuters.
Turkey’s integration process with the EU accelerated during the 1990s, particularly after agreeing to a customs union in 1995. In 1999, the Helsinki European Council of the EU decided to recognise Turkey as an equal candidate with other potential candidates.
Turkey was an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC), a predecessor organisation to the EU, from 1963. Turkey applied for formal membership into EEC in 1987 under Turgut Ozal’s government, a liberal-conservative oriented leadership.
After AK Party came to power, the accession process was hastened and in 2007 Turkey stated that the state would be ready to comply with the EU law by 2013.
However, Brussels has not accepted this as a deadline at the time for membership. In 2006, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the accession process will take up till at least 2021.