Sweden took the European Union’s helm on July 1 as term president to serve for a six-month period. As Sweden renews support to Turkey’s EU bid at every opportunity, a positive course for the negotiation process is expected between Turkey and the EU.
Bilateral relations stepped up a gear following a European Court of Justice, or ECJ, ruling in February that Turkish nationals aiming to run a business and provide services in EU member countries will not subject to a general visa requirement under certain conditions. However, statements of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel against Turkey on the eve of the European Parliament elections in June brought the accession subject back to the agenda once again.
In July, there was no flexibility in visa applications for Turkish nationals despite the decision. Germany, interpreting the ruling within a narrow frame, issued a visa bulletin that failed to meet expectations. According to Community jurisprudence, on the other hand, the freedom to provide services may be expanded to receiving services due to the increasing number of visa applications. In addition, in accordance with the Partnership Law, other member countries should review their national procedures for no-visa entry.
Although Sweden-France relations may take a rough turn due to Swedish support to the enlargement process, Sweden’s positive approach seems to be a relief for Turkey, at least until December.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s gaining the full support of Sarkozy and Merkel for a second term in office may have made compromises in return. Therefore, the pro-Turkey camp in the EU may weaken with Barroso’s incumbency.
The EU will tackle with various difficult issues, such as the new reinforcement policies against the global economic and financial crisis, a new Parliament, a new Commission and climate change talks in fall. However, the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty and its enforcement will, without doubt, be one of the other difficult and critical issues for the block. If the Irish nation says “Yes” to the treaty on Oct. 2, the EU will, at least, have overcome institutional problems.
Once the treaty enters into force, the six-month term presidency will be replaced by a 2.5 year term EU presidency. The new EU president’s attitude will be determinative in Turkey’s negotiation process.
Croatia example for Turkey
An unexpected development in June was the suspension of EU accession talks with Croatia that were launched concurrently with Turkey’s. Having negotiated 33 chapters, 22 of which were opened and seven were closed, talks with Croatia were suspended over a border dispute with Slovenia regarding off-shore waters. Croatia’s situation inevitably brings to mind the Cyprus conflict in Turkey’s EU negotiations. At this point, it will be important for an admissible solution to be found in the detailed reunification talks launched on Sept. 3, 2008. And significantly, in the case of a solution, it would be introduced to a popular vote by the end of the year.
The Cyprus question is determined as an opening criterion for eight chapters and a closing criterion for all other chapters in Turkey-EU accession talks. Additionally, France is blocking another four chapters with the justification that the opening of these chapters is directly related to the country’s membership. A chapter is already closed temporarily. At present, a total of 10 chapters are on the negotiation table. Keeping this in mind, we see once again that a comprehensive durable solution is needed in the island.
The election of Polish-national, Jerzy Buzek, as the new president the European Parliament on July 14 is crucial for the reason that the “we” and “others” split between the old and new members of the union may be overcome with his help. Buzek also has positive views on Turkey’s membership.
Finally, an inter-governmental agreement was signed in Ankara on July 13 as part of the Nabucco natural gas pipeline project. A critical development that will follow is whether or not the energy chapter will be opened under the Swedish term presidency. Opening the energy chapter would strengthen Turkey’s strategic role in the East-West energy corridor and reveal the country’s solid contributions to the EU.
As of September, a rather busy and critical agenda awaits us. It seems that this fall will be as hot as summer.
Damla Tantekin is a jurist and a legal adviser. Her piece was first published in daily Radikal on Aug. 27. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.
Hurriyet Daily News