Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said the European Union (EU) could open a new chapter concerning economic and monetary policies on Turkey following the announcement of the EU’s enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn in May that opening Chapter 17 is a possibility.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency (AA) reported Asselborn said that, “It is possible for Chapter 17 on Economic Policy to be opened soon,” speaking at the foreign affairs committee of the European Parliament in Brussels.
“We are expecting a new government to be formed soon in Turkey. We will pragmatically and constructively strengthen EU and Turkey relations,” he added.
Turkish Minister of EU Affairs Volkan Bozkir said, “Whichever political party forms a government, Turkey's EU membership remains a strategic goal,” in an interview with AA following his first meeting with EU officials after the June 7 parliamentary elections in Turkey.
Bozkir also advised all parties to get their act together concerning the accession process.
Austrian Commissioner Hahn previously said that Chapter 17 might be opened “very soon,” in a joint press conference on May 17 with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and 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 must fulfil political and economic (the Copenhagen criteria and the Maastricht criteria) which are the only measures for a country to become a member of the EU.
Turkey’s chief negotiator to the 28 member-bloc 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.
Asselborn also pointed out that there are some good developments regarding the continuous negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriots for a concrete resolution of the Cyprus issue which has been a major political “obstacle” for Turkey’s accession process to the EU.
Since 1974, the island has been divided into two spheres of government, the south being governed by the Greek Cypriot government and the north being governed by the Turkish Cypriots.
The United Nations (UN) envoy on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, announced in late May the reboot of comprehensive settlement negotiations between the newly elected Turkish Cypriot President Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades have borne their first tangible results with decisions to open new crossings and forming an interconnecting electricity grid on the divided island.
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.”
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, education and culture.
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 organization 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 the incumbent Justice and Development (AK Party) 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 for membership. In 2006, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that the accession process will take at least until 2021.