Mr. Balkan Kizildeli
Ambassador of Turkey in Slovenia
Turkey’s European Union membership is a major transformation project encompassing the whole of Turkish society. Now the long-standing Turkey-EU relations are at an important turning point since in December 2004 the EU will give its decision concerning the launching of accession negotiations. Turkey has been determined in continuing with its EU harmonisation efforts. The main reasons behind its determination are the firm commitment by the Parliament and the Government to full EU membership, the strong support deployed by the business community and NGOs and, most important of all, the fact that 75% of the entire Turkish public embraces this objective.
Turkey’s aim has been to complete the legislative harmonisation work regarding the political criteria by the end of 2003 and focus mainly on implementation in 2004. Turkey has been resolutely progressing in this direction. The clearest indication of this is the rapid adoption of four consecutive EU harmonisation packages since the beginning of 2003. With these harmonisation packages, new laws and major legal amendments to strengthen the legal basis of the freedom of thought and expression have been made.
In addition to these legislative reforms, significant international agreements on human rights and fundamental freedoms have been approved and, within the Parliament, a Commission on EU was established in order to monitor and facilitate harmonisation work.
Turkey is paying a high degree of importance to implementation as well. Various projects are launched to train the personnel in the implementing agencies and the government has put in place regulations to secure proper execution of the political reforms. One of the most crucial developments in this regard has been the establishment of a »Human Rights Advisory Board«, comprising representatives of the public sector and civil society, responsible for monitoring human rights practices throughout the country and taking necessary action. The recent formation of two different bodies, namely the »Reform Monitoring Group« and the »EU Communication Group«, is quite important in the sense that it demonstrates the strong will and determination of the country for EU membership. The »Reform Monitoring Group« consists of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Interior Affairs as well as the Secretary General for EU Affairs and the Head of the Human Rights Advisory Board. The Group is responsible for following up the implementation process and spotting its problems. It is a high-level body that evaluates all positive and negative developments concerning implementation; it receives complaints and opinions and acts immediately. A recent example of the Group’s activities was the correction of a practice which was contrary to legislative reforms and which impeded the freedom to name one’s child in a language other than Turkish.
The »EU Communication Group«, of which the Economic Development Foundation is a party, works in order to identify the prejudices against Turkey in the EU public and to explain »modern Turkey« in a realistic manner. The »EU Communication Group« is an NGO–government joint initiative and, being a core institution, is open to contributions and participation of all NGOs.
ECONOMY AND FINANCE
Turkey is aware that membership criteria should not be fulfilled only for the EU integration process but primarily for conforming to the standards of a democratic welfare state. In this regard, it is striving hard for completing them and is aiming to attain a significant move in economic - as well as acquis-harmonisation by the end of this year. On the economic front, Turkey is progressing well with its economic stability programme, which coincides with the Copenhagen economic criteria.
In 2003, the lowest inflation rate recorded in the past 20 years was achieved. In 2002, GNP per capita had increased by 21,7% in comparison with the previous year. The current positive trend in the Turkish economy relies on the drop in inflation rate in June, July and August. Moreover 13,8% inflation recorded in September and 5,4% economic growth in the first half of 2003 strengthened the expectations and the government's macroeconomic targets of 5% growth and 20% inflation for the end of 2003 became highly attainable.
Continuing positive trend in exports in first half of the year 2003 are also important factors for reassuring economic confidence. In the first eight months of 2003 compared to the same period of previous year, exports increased by 33,7% and reached 29,8 billion $. The increase in capacity utilisation rate in the Turkish manufacturing sector indicates that the increase in exports will continue in the next period. Turkey third Pre-Accession Economic Programme (PEP), covering the period 2003-2006, aims at strengthening macroeconomic stability in an effort to increase the resources allocated to the implementation of social policies for the creation of a welfare society.
Although PEP projected the inflation rate for 2004 as 14,4%, during the preparatory meetings of Turkish Budgetary Committee, the inflation target for the same year was announced to be 12% and growth rate to be 5%. According to PEP, a one-digit-inflation rate for the Turkish economy would be achieved in 2005.
These positive economic developments have raised confidence in the Turkish economy and increased Turkey’s credibility in international economic circles. However Turkey is also well aware that success in controlling inflation can only take root through a sustainable fiscal policy based on structural reforms. Within the context of Structural reforms: The adoption of the law amending the Law on Consumer Protection has not only harmonised Turkish legislation in this area with that of the EU, but has also enhanced and furthered consumer rights in Turkey. Amendments to the Customs Law, the Public Procurement Law and the Public Administration and Budgeting Administration Law and the ongoing efforts to amend the laws on Tax Administration, on Financial Sector Reform and the completion of the preparations regarding the draft Law on Public Finance Management and Financial Control constitute significant steps.
The adoption of the Foreign Direct Investment Law provides an important step in achieving an investment environment that conforms to international standards. Turkey has also adopted the CE marking system and made its application compulsory in the internal market for a range of products; has adopted a regulation with respect to the Ministry of Industry’s authority of market surveillance and has established the NUTs classification system required for harmonising with EU’s regional policies.
TURKISH PUBLIC STANCE
A private research Foundation has carried out an informative project covering 24 cities all around Turkey and aiming to inform the Turkish people on the EU, EU-Turkey relations and the membership process. Seminars have been held in eleven cities in Eastern and Southeastern Turkey. Attendance was quite high and the feedback obtained indicates a positive trend. Effects of the changes brought about by recent political reforms are clearly visible; there is an ongoing transformation in daily life and this always to the better. Under such auspicious circumstances, it is certain that the Turkish people will react very positively to a decision by the EU for the launching of accession negotiations as the people believe that once the accession negotiations start, reforms on raising the standards of democracy and human rights will gain a new momentum.
So, the Hague European Council of December 2004 will provide a historic opportunity for the EU to convey and clarify its intentions regarding Turkey’s membership to the Turkish public. Namely, despite the intense support, there are lingering doubts about EU’s determination and certain circles in Turkey question the sincerity of the EU. And the Turkish public is concerned that, if negotiations do not start, the reform process will be jeopardised. Thus, in case EU fails to decide positively in December this year, such worries will prevail and as the Turkish public will be greatly disappointed, harmonisation work may lose the strong public support it now enjoys.
Another striking feedback from these seminars related to a certain concern of the EU members as to Turkey’s membership is migration. As understood from the answers, EU membership would mean better economic and democratic standards. So, in contrast to the wide-spread perception in EU member countries, the Turkish people seem to think that EU membership will bring prosperity to their own region and thus increase job opportunities where they are.
ADVANTAGES OF TURKEY'S MEMBERSHIP TO THE EU
Turkey’s EU membership will, first and foremost, demonstrate that the EU stands for common values and ideals rather than a common civilisation and religion. When a country with a predominantly Muslim population becomes a member, this will demonstrate that the Union is not a »Christian Club« and thus will help the EU to contribute, in a stronger fashion, to world peace and to the protection of a multi-cultural mosaic.
With Turkey’s membership, the EU would also gain indispensable strategic benefits in terms of its security. As frequently expressed by NATO officials, Turkey is not a consumer of security but a producer of security. Furthermore, in the current NATO evaluations concerning the »new threat« perceptions that are re-shaped after the 11 September attacks, Turkey is regarded as a »key-state«. Apart from the security dimension, Turkey’s central and unique position among three continents will provide the basis for deriving expected gains from Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. EU with Turkey as a full member will see its influence increase in the international arena, specially in the Middle East, Balkans and Caucasus.
Furthermore, Turkey will contribute to the solution of EU’s problems associated with the security and diversity of energy supplies by virtue of its proximity to energy sources and its strategic position in oil and gas pipe-lines. In terms of market opportunities, in addition to the Turkish market, EU companies will have better access to the Middle Eastern, Russian and Central Asian markets. They will have the opportunity to form partnerships with Turkish firms which are active in these markets and will benefit from their experiences. Turkey is aware that it still has a distance to cover in particular regarding the implementation of reforms already legislated. It needs a cooperative approach instead of the frequently biased attitudes it receives from the EU. In spite of the forty-year long relationship and Turkey’s determination, prejudices against Turkey can still be seen in the Union. Some quarters in the EU seem to regard Turkey more as a “problem” than a »partner«. Turkey expects the European Commission, other EU institutions and member states to support it and to work with it in eradicating such prejudices and to explain to the citizens of the EU members that Turkey’s membership will be a »win-win« case for all the parties involved. The synergy to be brought by Turkey’s membership will pave the way for the EU to achieve new successes.