Turkey’s long-standing integration with the European Union might speed up soon as the EU’s enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Monday that they can open chapter 17 which focuses on economic and monetary policies.
"I think it might be possible to open Chapter 17 very soon," the Austrian Commissioner said in a joint press conference on Monday with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Minister of EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir in Brussels.
"We have concluded our internal work and we will submit at the latest in early June our report to the council and [I] hope we will get approval soon so we can start and open this chapter," Hahn added.
Turkey has long been waiting on the doorstep of the EU to become a full member, but the pre-accession talks only opened on Sept. 5, 2005.
So far, the EU and Turkey have fulfilled 14 chapters out of 35 and 17 remain blocked, including the ones on economic and monetary policy, and on education and culture.
Turkey must fulfil political (Copenhagen) and economic (Maastricht) criterias which are the only measures for a country to become a member in the EU.
Turkey’s chief negotiator with the 28 member-bloc Volkan Bozkir pledged that Ankara will do its share, but raised Turkey’s concerns over some countries’ reluctant attitudes towards Turkey.
"I would like to stress Turkey does and will do her share in [the] accession process. However, the pace of negotiations is not promising, because some countries have raised obstacles," Bozkir said.
"We expect this chapter [Chapter 17] to be opened as soon as possible...We are ready to intensify dialogue for deepening Turkey [and EU] relations," Bozkir added.
Some countries in the EU, most notably Greek Cypriots and France, have blocked Turkey’s negotiation chapters due to the Cyprus problem and 1915 Armenian events, which are not considered as part of the conditionality criterias.
The eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus was divided between a Greek Cypriots in the south and a Turkish Cypriots in the north since 1974, at a time when Turkey sent its troops to the island in the aftermath of a Greek-backed coup that attempted to unite the island with Greece.
The Turkish Cypriot had declared independence in 1983, but it was only recognised officially by Ankara while Libya de facto recognises the country.
The Cyprus issue has long been occupying the agenda of Turkish-Greek and EU relations since the Turkish intervention in 1974 and that sourced the relations among the parties until the peace efforts were accelerated by the beginning of the new millennium.
The peace talks were suspended last October, after the Greek Cypriots cancelled its participation in a row with Turkey over offshore hydrocarbons exploration.
The Greek side discovered gas offshore in late 2011, but Turkey disputed its rights and dispatched an exploration vessel to carry out seismic research in the Greek Cypriot-claimed waters at the end of the last year.
Turkish Cypriots’ new-elected President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades met with the UN Special Adviser for Cyprus Espen Barth Eide on Friday to maintain the peace talks that were interrupted last year.