A Turkish reform plan to complete EU-accession talks by 2013 has been cautiously welcomed by the Commission, with Turkish officials saying that the reforms would be carried out even if the country is eventually refused EU membership.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül confirmed on 17 April 2007 that reforms would be carried out regardless of eventual entry to the bloc. “If we start debating that now, we’ll only lose time,” he told the Associated Press. “The important thing is to bring about Turkey’s transformation.”
The Commission spokesperson on enlargement, Krisztina Nagy, said that the road map was “very much welcomed by the European Commission”, but noted that it was too early to comment on the contents and that such a plan “is what is expected by any candidate country”.
A Turkish request to set an end-date for talks was also dismissed, with the enlargement spokesperson saying that “accession dates can’t be defined in advance because the progress of accession negotiations depends on progress in the reforms on the ground”.
Membership talks with Turkey were partially suspended due to a stalemate on the issue of Cyprus last year, which saw eight out of the 35 negotiation chapters frozen. However, talks started again on 29 March 2007 with the opening of the second chapter, which concerns enterprise and industrial policy.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül said that reforms would be carried out in all areas, including the eight frozen chapters. “The problematic issues are mostly political. We cannot cling to them and remain at a standstill,” Gül told a press conference. “When the political problems are one day resolved, we will meet with the EU and it will take us half an hour to open and close those chapters.”
No chapter can be officially closed until the Cyprus issue is resolved.
The road map is to set out around 200 legislative amendments and 400 regulations necessary to comply with EU standards by 2013, although does not include a timetable for the adoption of the legislation, said Ali Babacan, Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks.
Turkey holds presidential elections in May and general elections in November, which are both expected to be important for the future pace of accession talks, with recent polls indicating a drop in Turkish public support for EU membership. (see EURACTIV Links Dossier).