In its latest progress report on Turkey, the Commission expresses serious concerns about lack of progress towards meeting the political criteria for EU membership. The Council and the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee support the Commission’s position. Turkish authorities on the other hand consider the report unbalanced, while a US study considers that Turkey is repositioning itself.
The 2012 progress report on Turkey
The report underlines that Turkey is continuing to improve its ability to take on the obligations of membership, but its administrative and enforcement capacities to cope with EU laws need to be strengthened. The report emphasises the importance of the launch, in May 2012, of the new positive agenda aimed at putting the accession process back on track. The country’s economic criteria are good but serious concerns are growing regarding Turkey’s lack of substantial progress towards fully meeting the political criteria.
Although positive steps have been taken by Turkey in terms of participative work on a new Constitution and the establishment of an ombudsman, the Commission’s report regrets the recurrent lack of consultation in the legislative process. The improvements made by the third judicial reform package are highlighted, but the Commission deplores the wide application of the legal framework on terrorism and organised crime. This has been the cause of repeated infringements of the right to a fair trial and of the freedom of expression, assembly and association. The Kurdish issue has yet to be solved, but, since the publication of the progress report, the so-called Imrali process has launched unexpected moves towards resolving the question. The Commission regrets also that Turkey decided to freeze its relations with the Presidency of the Council throughout the Cypriot Presidency in the second half of 2012.
In a press release issued after the publication of the 2012 progress report, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted that the report was unbalanced, and focused on negative rather than positive elements. For the first time during its candidacy, Turkey issued (in Turkish only) its own progress report, prepared under the coordination of the Ministry for EU Affairs. This report can be considered as a reaction to the Commission’s report, but also an indicator of Turkey’s will for reforms. Egemen Bağış, the Minister for European Union Affairs and Chief Negotiator, declared in a press statement that it was Turkey’s response to the: “subjective, biased, groundless and narrow views” of the Commission’s report. Less interest was evident on the part of Turkish newspapers to this year’s report; most used headlines reporting critical statements, notably those of Bağış.
In its December 2012 conclusions on EU enlargement, the Council endorsed the findings of the Commission’s progress report. Germany and France have indicated they are ready to support opening talks on the regional policy chapter. The EP will discuss a resolution on the 2012 Progress Report on Turkey, drafted by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The draft supports the Commission’s report and the Council’s conclusions thereon. The draft resolution calls on the Council to make renewed efforts to enable the opening of negotiations on chapters 23 and 24 of the acquis (judiciary and justice).
The chair of the European Parliament’s Turkey Delegation, Hélène Flautre (Greens, FR), said that EU policy towards Turkey is incoherent and ineffective.
International analysts have been rather quiet on this issue but a study by the US Congressional Research Service considers that the Turkish reaction shows that EU membership seems to be becoming of lower priority as the country’s economy continues to prosper, and as Turkey repositions and strengthens itself in its own neighbourhood.