30 November 2004
As the European Union (EU) Summit scheduled for December 17th nears, Turkey anxiously awaits the critical decision regarding when membership negotiations between Turkey and the EU will begin. A draft of the Summit proceedings submitted by the EU term president has fallen short of the expectations set by the Progress report issued in October of 2004.
The draft was sent by the Netherlands to EU member countries yesterday and four of its points are being negatively perceived in Turkey: Negotiations may be suspended following the recommendation of 1/3 of members, restrictions may be applied to free movement of the Turkish labor force within the Union, a de facto recognition of the Cypriot Greek administration may be required, Turkey's membership may begin in 2014 at the earliest.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said these tough elements of the draft are political tactics: "These could be changed 40 times. Prior to other important meetings, similar drafted were also released. Turkey's viewpoint and ideas are obvious. We are clearly conveying them to our audience. First, our expectations should be met. Negotiations should begin. Then, we can think about these types of things; we can look at the details."
The Summit draft leaves the decision of if and when negotiations will begin to EU leaders. Diplomatic sources insist that this is the first draft presented by the Netherlands and that the text may be changed on December 17th. The draft sheds some light on the conditions being applied Turkey in the section outlining the negotiation procedures. Although the conditions are said to be applicable to all candidates, they are clearly included in the text for Ankara and the draft references the reforms made in Turkey. In addition, there are a few places where it is emphasized that the process for deciding if and when each candidate country can start negotiations will include a review of the effects of the 5th enlargement.
The recommendation that member countries be given the authority to initiate suspension of negotiations is a departure from the recommendation in the Progress report issued earlier this fall, which gave this authority to the Commission. The Summit draft notes that 1/3 of Commission and member countries may recommend a halt in the negotiations. With this element, member countries are given more power regarding Turkey's negotiations. Even though the draft does not entertain the notion of "privileged partnership" for Turkey as demanded by France and Austria, negotiations are completely under EU leadership control. The draft stresses that negotiations are open ended and that the opening and closing conditions of the negotiations are determined by the member governments.
The Draft does not directly call on Ankara to recognize the Cypriot Greek administration, but it does request modification to the 1963 Ankara Agreement that will allow the inclusion of 10 new members.
EU member country ambassadors will be discussing the December 17th Summit draft tomorrow (December 1).