Turkey´s face has been firmly directed towards the West since the declaration of the Republic in 1923. Turkey´s foreign policy is a clear reflection of this alignment. Turkey is a founding member of the United Nations (1945), a member of NATO (1952), the Council of Europe (1949), the OECD (1960), the OSCE (1973) and an associate member of the Western European Union (1992).
In July 31, 1959, shortly after the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1958, Turkey made its first application to join the newly established Community. The EEC's Council of Ministers´ response to Turkey's application in 1959 was to suggest the establishment of an association with Turkey. The ensuing negotiations resulted with the signature of the Ankara Agreement on September 12, 1963. This agreement, which entered into force on December 1, 1964, marks the beginning of Turkey´s relations with Europe.
The aim of the Ankara Agreement, as stated in Article 2, was “to promote the continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations between the Parties, while taking full account of the need to ensure an accelerated development of the Turkish economy and to improve the level of employment and living conditions of the Turkish people”. Article 28 provides the final target of the Association; “as soon as the operation of this Agreement has advanced far enough to justify envisaging full acceptance by Turkey of the obligations arising out of the Treaty establishing the Community, the Contracting Parties shall examine the possibility of the accession of Turkey to the Community”.
The Ankara Agreement envisaged a progressive model of integration with Turkey, namely the establishment of a Customs Union composed of three phases; the “preparation phase”, the “transition phase” and the “final phase”. The first phase, which aimed to reduce economic differences between the parties, started in December 1, 1964, with Agreement´s entry into force.
The “preparation phase” was completed and the conditions of the “transition phase” were set with the signature of the Additional Protocol on January 1, 1973. The Additional Protocol set out the ways on how the Customs Union would be established. It provided that the EEC would abolish tariff and quantitative barriers to its imports from Turkey upon the entry into force of the Protocol, whereas Turkey would do the same in accordance with a timetable containing two calendars set for 12 and 22 years respectively, and called for the harmonisation of Turkish legislation with that of the EU in economic matters. Furthermore, the Additional Protocol envisaged the free circulation of persons between the parties in the next 12 to 22 years.
Turkey-EU relations entered a period of instability lasting from the beginning of 1970s, until the second half of 1980s, due to Turkey´s political and economic conditions. Following the military intervention of September 12, 1980 in Turkey, the relations between Turkey and the Community virtually froze. In the first Association Council after the political crisis, in 1986, Turkey stated its intention to apply for full membership. In line with this statement, Turkey applied for full membership on April 14, 1987, on the basis of the EEC Treaty's Article 237, ECSC Treaty´s Article 98 and EURATOM Treaty´s 205. The Council forwarded Turkey's application for membership to the European Commission for the preparation of an Opinion. The Commission declared its Opinion on December 18, 1989, where it basically underlined Turkey's eligibility for membership, yet deferred the in-depth analysis of Turkey's application until the emergence of a more favourable environment. The Commission also mentioned that Turkey's accession was prevented equally by the EC's own situation on the eve of the Single Market's completion which prevented any consideration of further enlargement. The Opinion went on to underpin the need for a comprehensive cooperation programme in order to facilitate the integration of the two parties and added that the Customs Union should be completed in 1995 as envisaged.
Under these circumstances, Turkey chose to give priority to complete the envisaged Customs Union with the Community and further strengthened its efforts. Talks began in 1994 and were finalised on 6 March 1995 at the Turkey-EU Association Council with the adoption of the decision 1/95 on the completion of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU in industrial and processed agricultural goods by December 31, 1995. With this decision, the second stage of Turkey-EU relations was completed and the so-called “final phase” was initiated. With the Customs Union decision, Turkey-EU relations entered a totally new dimension, due to the fact that the Customs Union constitutes the single most important step for Turkey´s EU integration objective.
Having completed the Customs Union, membership became one of the priority issues in Turkey´s agenda and Turkey attached particular importance to the EU's current enlargement process. Despite all these positive developments achieved, the Commission excluded Turkey from the enlargement process in its report entitled "Agenda 2000" which it disclosed on July 16, 1997. While the report highlighted the fact that the Customs Union with Turkey was functioning in a satisfactory level and that Turkey demonstrated her ability to adapt to the EU norms in many areas, it noted the same political and economic arguments against Turkey and made no reference to Turkey's full membership objective. Following this, in the Luxembourg European Council Summit of December 12-13, 1997, where Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and enlargement issues were discussed, a parallel approach was reflected by and large the contents of the Commission's "Agenda 2000". In the document released at the end of the Summit, while Turkey's eligibility was reconfirmed by the Heads of States and Government of EU Member States, the EU decided to set up a strategy to prepare Turkey for accession and to create a special procedure to review the developments to be made. With these decisions, the development of Turkey-EU relations was made conditional on certain economic, political and foreign policy questions, where the Commission was asked to submit suitable proposals to enhance Turkey-EU relations. The reaction of the Turkish Government to the EU's attitude was a critical one where the Government stated that Turkey's goal of full membership and association would nevertheless be maintained, but that the development of bilateral relations depended on the EU's honouring its commitments, and that it would not discuss with the EU issues remaining outside the contractual context of the bilateral relations as long as the EU did not change its attitude.
The Helsinki European Council Summit held on December 10-11, 1999 marked a breakthrough in Turkey-EU relations. At Helsinki Summit, Turkey was officially recognised without any precondition as a candidate state on an equal level with other candidate states. The Presidency Conclusions of the Helsinki European Council clearly stated that Turkey will reap the benefits form a pre-accession strategy to stimulate and support its reforms. This will also include an Accession Partnership, which will be drawn up accordingly, combined with a National Program for the adoption of the acquis communautaire. Turkey will participate in Community programs open to other candidate countries and agencies. Turkey will be invited to the meetings between candidate states and the Union in the context of the accession process. A single framework for coordinating all sources of EU financial assistance for pre-accession will be created. Along with these, the Commission will regularly follow Turkey with its Progress Reports.
The recognition of Turkey as a candidate for accession at the Helsinki European Council in December 1999 marked the beginning of Turkey-EU relations with a perspective of membership. As foreseen in the Helsinki European Council Conclusions, the first Progress Report on Turkey was published by the Commission and was declared in 1999. This report also constituted the basis of the Accession Partnership Document.
As noted in the Helsinki European Council conclusions, the Commission started to prepare an Accession Partnership for Turkey, which was declared on March 8, 2001. On the other hand, the framework regulation designed to furnish the legal basis for the Accession Partnership was adopted by the General Affairs Council on February 26, 2001. The regulation aims at combining all EU financial assistance under a single programme. The Accession Partnership was formally approved by the Council on February 26, 2001. With the adoption of these two documents, an important legal procedure concerning Turkey's accession strategy was finalized.
The Accession Partnership for Turkey, an important instrument of the Commission formed in line with its enlargement policy, is prepared within the framework of Turkey´s ability to fulfil the so-called Copenhagen political criteria. The document is composed of short-term, middle-term and long-term targets that Turkey has to fulfil to comply with the Copenhagen political criteria.
After the approval of the Accession Partnership by the Council and the adoption of the Framework Regulation, the Turkish Government announced its own National Program for the Adoption of the EU acquis on March 19, 2001. The National Program was submitted to the Commission on March 26, 2001. The National Program has been produced with a careful appreciation of the short and medium-term priorities to be fulfilled.
The Copenhagen European Council Summit of 12-13 December 2002 marked another important turning point in EU enlargement process. While the accession of ten candidate states to the EU has been declared, the Copenhagen European Council resolved that if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of recommendation from the European Commission, decides that Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the EU would open accession negotiations with Turkey. Meanwhile, the leaders and heads of states of EU Member States agreed to extend and develop the cooperation on the Customs Union and to provide the Turkish government with increased pre-accession financial assistance in the Summit.
Progress towards accession continues along the path set by the National Program in the post-Helsinki period. The most crucial target at this stage is the opening of accession negotiations, which depends on the complete fulfilment of the Copenhagen political criteria. Within the last year, Turkey took a number of important steps. The most important among these are the major review of the Turkish Constitution with two Constitutional reform packages and eight harmonization packages that were adopted between February 2002 and July 2004. With these eight reform packages 218 articles of 53 different laws have been changed.
The European Commission´s Report and Recommendation in line with the decisions taken at the 2002 Copenhagen European Council were published on 6 October 2004. In the 2004 Progress Report, the Commission has thoroughly analyzed the steps taken by Turkey on its road to accession. In its Recommendation the Commission, recognizing that Turkey has sufficiently fulfilled Copenhagen political criteria, has advised the Member States to start accession negotiations with Turkey. Furthermore, the decision taken during the 1999 Helsinki Summit that “Turkey is a candidate country destined to join the EU” was underlined.
The Presidency Conclusions on Turkey in December 17, 2004 constitutes an important and historical landmark. Based on this recommendation at the European Council on December 16-17, 2004, the decisions taken in the 1999 Helsinki and 2002 Copenhagen Summits were reaffirmed, as the Council took note of the resolute steps taken by Turkey in pursuing a comprehensive reform process and decided to open accession negotiations on October 3, 2005 in the framework of the paragraph 23 of the Presidency Conclusions.
More information on the “Candidacy Process” and the “Negotiation Process” may be found in the related sections.
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