SOFIAecho / Reflecting on EU-Turkey Relations

Mehmet T. Gücük 27.11.2008
On November 8, in its annual report on Turkey, the European Commission criticised Ankara for slowing down reforms on human rights and for refusing to open its ports and airports to Greek Cyprus, whose government is recognised by the EU as the government of the whole island. As a result, Turkey was given until mid-December to come to terms with the EU or risk a crisis in its EU accession talks. Turkey’s ambassador to Bulgaria Mehmet Gucuk commented to Yana Moyseeva on the report.

What was your reaction to the European Commission’s report on Turkey’s progress published on November 8?

Full membership of Turkey in the EU is our fundamental strategic objective. With the starting of the accession process, a significant threshold has been passed in Turkey’s 50 year political and 40 year contractual process of integration with the EU. By any measure, this has been a historic step and has created positive repercussions on a global scale.

The 2006 regular report confirms the commitment of the Turkish government to the reform process and outlines the progress which has been achieved. While stressing that legislation in many areas is in alignment with the EU, the report states that problems arise in implementation. Naturally, the report also contains elements with which we disagree. Turkey’s views in this regard will be conveyed to the Commission in due course, as done every year.

Some of the areas in which more progress is expected or shortcomings identified are those which Turkey is already addressing sensitively and to which the Turkish public opinion attaches high importance. No reference to the fact that these matters are also top agenda items in Turkey is a shortcoming of the report.

The reforms are a process which requires continuity. All the steps that have to be taken in the legislative and administrative fields primarily for the welfare and the benefit of the Turkish people will naturally continue.

As for the section in the report on Cyprus and the implementation of the Additional Protocol, the divergence of views between Turkey and the EU has been reflected in the report. Turkey’s views and efforts for the solution of the Cyprus problem are well known by all parties. The Cyprus question is a political question and is not an obligation in the context of our accession process, which is of a technical nature.

At the Summit of the EU heads of state and government on December 14-15 2006, a decision will be taken on the views put forward by the Commission. The responsibility to act in accordance with political common sense and the principle of Pacta Sund Servanda passes on to the EU member states. In this sense, Turkey considers this period leading to the December Summit as an opportunity for reflection on Turkey-EU relations. In this period, Turkey will continue to share with her EU partners in an open manner and at every level and opportunity her views and concerns on the issues outlined in the regular report and strategy paper.

Do you agree or disagree with the criticisms states in the report, such as regarding the need for Turkey to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels, human rights breaches, and so on?

As I already mentioned before, the Cyprus problem is not an issue which is directly related to Turkey’s accession talks. However it is wrongly presented as an impediment in this process. Turkey sincerely wants and has exerted genuine effort towards a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus and is of the view that such a solution must be found under the UN and on the basis of the long-established UN parameters which are bizonality, political equality and equal status and a new partnership state structure. The Turkish Cypriot people endorsed with an overwhelming majority the UN Comprehensive Settlement Plan for Cypr

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