EU-Turkey Relations…


Turning vicious circles into virtuous ones

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Steven_Blockmans

by Steven Blockmans – With local elections due to take place in Turkey on March 30th, presidential elections on August 2nd and general elections in June 2015, the coming weeks and months will be decisive for the general tenor of the country‟s politics for the foreseeable future. Sadly, the state of democracy and rule of law in Turkey has deteriorated due to the government‟s mishandling of a series of toxic political scandals in recent months. At the same time, the stagnation in Turkey‟s accession process continues to sour relations with the EU. The European Commission‟s so-called “Positive Agenda” is virtually on life-support and needs a fresh injection if the vicious circles now affecting bilateral relations are to be turned into virtuous ones.

 The European Council and the European Commission should go beyond token expressions of concern about the decline in democratic standards and rule of law in Turkey. They should endeavour to tackle head on the challenges to the Copenhagen political criteria in Turkey.

 In line with the EU‟s “New Approach” to accession negotiations, which centres on the early opening of chapters 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security) to secure not just reform on paper, but to establish a track record in implementation throughout the accession process, the European Commission should be given the signal to start such talks with Turkey. To that end, member states, Cyprus in particular, need to be persuaded to end their opposition to formulating benchmarks for the opening of accession negotiating chapters 23 and 24.

 Screening reports and Action Plans should be adopted to guide the negotiations in chapters 23 and 24. At the opening of these chapters, interim benchmarks could be set by the member states. Only when these interim benchmarks have been met sufficiently would closing benchmarks be adopted.

 In order to help Turkey fulfil the commitments made in its Action Plans, financial and technical assistance would have to be mobilised under the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange instrument (TAIEX) of the Commission and the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (2014-2020). These supporting measures would have to be targeted at the early stages of the process and take a sectoral approach, including budget support based on concrete and comprehensive plans. Download the full paper.

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