History of Relations Between Turkey and the
Turkey is the only pluralist secular democracy in the Moslem world and
has always attached great importance to developing its relations with
other European countries. Historically, Turkish culture has had a
profound impact over much of Eastern and Southern Europe.
Turkey began "westernising"
its economic, political and social structures in the 19th century.
Following the First World War and the proclamation of the Republic in
1923, it chose Western Europe as the model for its new secular
Turkey has ever since closely aligned itself with the West and has
become a founding member of the United Nations, a member of NATO, the
Council of Europe, the OECD and an associate member of the Western
European Union. During the Cold War Turkey was part of the Western
alliance, defending freedom, democracy and human rights. In this
respect, Turkey has played and continues to play a vital role in the
defence of the European continent and the principal elements of its
foreign policy have converged with those of its European partners.
Having thus entered into very close cooperation with Western Europe in
the political field, it was therefore only natural for Turkey to
complete this in the economic area. Thus, Turkey chose to begin close
cooperation with the fledgling EEC in 1959.
2.The Ankara Agreement
In July 1959, shortly after the creation of the European Economic
Community in 1958, Turkey made its first application to join. The EEC's
response to Turkey's application in 1959 was to suggest the
establishment of an association until Turkey's circumstances permitted
its accession. The ensuing negotiations resulted in the signature of the
Agreement Creating An Association Between The Republic of Turkey and the
European Economic Community (the "Ankara Agreement") on 12 September
1963. This agreement, which entered into force on 1 December 1964, aimed
at securing Turkey's full membership in the EEC through the
establishment in three phases of a customs union which would serve as an
instrument to bring about integration between the EEC and Turkey.
The Ankara Agreement envisaged the progressive establishment of a
Customs Union which would bring the Parties closer together in economic
and trade matters. In the meantime, the EEC would offer financial
assistance to Turkey. Under the First Financial Protocol which covered
the period 1963-1970, the EEC provided Turkey with loans worth 175
million ECU. The trade concessions which the EEC granted to Turkey under
the form of tariff quotas proved, however, not to be as effective as
expected. Yet, the EEC's share in Turkish imports rose from 29% in 1963
to 42% in 1972.
Although the Ankara Agreement envisaged the free circulation not only of
goods, but of natural persons, services and capital between the Parties,
it excluded Turkey from the EEC decision-making mechanisms and precluded
Turkey from recourse to the ECJ for dispute settlement.
The Customs Union that was to be established between the Parties went
much further than the abolition of tariff and quantitative barriers to
trade between the Parties and the application of a Common External
Tariff to imports from third countries, and envisaged harmonisation with
EEC policies in virtually every field relating to the internal market.
The Ankara Agreement still constitutes the legal basis of the
Association between Turkey and the EU.
3.The Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol of 13 November 1970 set out in a detailed
fashion how the Customs Union would be established. It provided that the
EEC would abolish tariff and quantitative barriers to its imports from
Turkey (with some exceptions including fabrics) upon the entry into
force of the Protocol, whereas Turkey would do the same in accordance
with a timetable containing two calendars set for 12 and 22 years, and
called for the harmonisation of Turkish legislation with that of the EU
in economic matters. Furthermore, the Additional Protocol envisaged the
free circulation of natural persons between the Parties in the next 12
to 22 years.
The Additional Protocol brought significant advantages for Turkey's
agricultural exports to the EEC. 92% of our agricultural exports in 1971
benefited from this regime. Despite other agricultural producers such as
Greece, Portugal and Spain later becoming member states, and the EEC's
conclusion of preferential trade agreements with certain Mediterranean
countries, Turkey preserves even today its position as one of the EEC's
most privileged trading partners.
Had the Additional Protocol been implemented in full, the free
circulation of goods and services and the harmonisation of Turkish
legislation with that of the EEC in a multitude of areas would have been
achieved at the end of the 22 year timetable.
4.Turkey's Application for Full Membership in 1987
On 24 January 1980 Turkey shifted its economic policy from an autarchic
import-substitution model and opened its economy to the operation of
market forces. Following this development in the economic area and the
multiparty elections in 1983, the relations between Turkey and the
Community, which had come to a virtual freeze following the military
intervention of 12 September 1980 in Turkey, began returning to
normality. In the light of these positive developments, Turkey applied
for full membership in 1987, on the basis of the EEC Treaty's article
237 which gave any European country the right to do so. Turkey's request
for accession, filed not under the relevant provisions of the Ankara
Agreement, but those of the Treaty of Rome, underwent the normal
procedures. The Council forwarded Turkey's application to the Commission
for the preparation of an Opinion. This has reconfirmed Turkey's
eligibility, given that a similar application by Morocco was turned down
by the Council on the grounds that Morocco is not a European country.
The Commission's Opinion was completed on 18 December 1989 and endorsed
by the Council on 5 February 1990. It basically underlined Turkey's
eligibility for membership, yet deferred the in-depth analysis of
Turkey's application until the emergence of a more favourable
environment. It also mentioned that Turkey's accession was prevented
equally by the EC's own situation on the eve of the Single Market's
completion which prevented the consideration of further enlargement. It
went on to underpin the need for a comprehensive cooperation program
aiming at facilitating the integration of the two sides and added that
the Customs Union should be completed in 1995 as envisaged.
Although it did not attain its basic objective, Turkey's application
revived Turkey-EC relations: efforts to develop relations intensified on
both sides, the Association's political and technical mechanisms started
meeting again and measures to complete the Customs Union in time were
resumed. Meanwhile, the Commission's promised cooperation package, known
as the "Matutes Package", was unveiled in 1990, but could not be adopted
by the Council due to Greece's objection.
5.The Customs Union
a.The Technical Aspects of the Customs Union
Under these circumstances, Turkey chose to complete the envisaged
Customs Union with the Community. Talks began in 1994 and were finalised
on 6 March 1995 at the Turkey-EU Association Council. The Association
Council is the highest ranking organ of the association and is composed
of the Foreign Ministers of Turkey and the 15 EU Member States. On that
day the Association Council adopted its decision 1/95 on the completion
of the Customs Union between Turkey and the EU in industrial and
processed agricultural goods by 31 December 1995. At the same meeting,
another Resolution on accompanying measures was adopted and the EU made
a declaration on financial cooperation with Turkey as part of the
customs union "package".
With the entry into force of the Customs Union, Turkey abolished all
duties and equivalent charges on imports of industrial goods from the EU.
Furthermore, Turkey has been harmonising its tariffs and equivalent
charges on the importation of industrial goods from third countries with
the EU's Common External Tariff and progressively adapting itself to the
EU's commercial policy and preferential trade arrangements with specific
third countries. This process is to be completed in 5 years.
As a result of these measures, Turkey's weighted rates of protection for
imports of industrial products originating in EU and EFTA member states
have fallen from 5.9% to 0%, and from 10.8% to 6% for similar goods
originating in third countries. The latter rates will further drop to
3.5% when the EU fulfills its obligations under the WTO negotiations.
Although basic agricultural products have been excluded from the initial
package, a preferential trade regime for these products has been adopted
on 1 January 1998. Further efforts are expected to be made in the same
direction. Moreover, Turkey is progressively adopting many aspects of
the Common Agricultural Policy. On the other hand, under the Customs
Union Decision, the EU is expected to take as much account as possible
of Turkey's agricultural interests when developing its agricultural
Turkey's efforts towards harmonising its legislation with that of the EU
are under way. These efforts include, in commercial matters, monitoring
and safeguarding measures on imports from both the EU and third
countries, the management of quantitative restrictions and tariff quotas
and the prevention of dumped and subsidised imports. As to competition
rules, subsidies through State resources in any form whatsoever which
distort or threaten to distort competition will be banned. A special
Competition Authority has been set up for this purpose. Assistance to
promote economic development in Turkey's less developed regions and
assistance intended to promote cultural heritage conservation and which
does not adversely affect competition will however be allowed.
Furthermore, Turkey is progressively adjusting its legislation regarding
state monopolies of a commercial nature so as to ensure that no
discrimination exists in the conditions under which goods are produced
and marketed between nationals of Turkey and EU Member States. Turkey is
also in the process of harmonising its laws with EU legislation
eliminating technical barriers to trade during a transitional period
which is expected to last five years, as foreseen in the Customs Union
Decision. Effective cooperation between Turkey and the EU in the fields
of standardisation, calibration, quality, accreditation, testing and
certification will be achieved as part of this process. Harmonisation of
Turkish legislation to that of the EU on intellectual, industrial and
commercial property has been realised and laws for consumer protection
are now being put in place. It is also noteworthy that both Parties are
banned from using internal taxes as indirect protection mechanisms and
from using tax rebates as export subsidies.
b.The Resolution on Accompanying Measures
Apart from these rather technical provisions related to the
establishment and the proper functioning of the Customs Union, the
package also comprised an Association Council Resolution providing for
the intensification of cooperation between Turkey and the EU in such
areas not covered by the Customs Union as industrial cooperation,
Trans-European networks, energy, transport, telecommunications,
agriculture, environment, science, statistics, as well as matters
relating to justice and home affairs, consumer protection, cultural
cooperation, information etc. These provisions also aimed at ensuring
that the higher degree of integration achieved between Turkey and the EU
through the Customs Union was not limited solely to economic/trade
matters and that the Customs Union did serve its purpose under the
Ankara Agreement: constituting an important cornerstone towards Turkey's
accession to the EU.
The third element of the Customs Union package was the statement on
financial cooperation which the EU delivered at the Association Council
meeting where Decision 1/95 was adopted. This financial cooperation,
which amounted to 2.22 billion ECU over a five-year period, aimed at
alleviating the burden which the opening up of the economy to EU
competition would bring to Turkish economic operators on the one hand,
and improving Turkey's infrastructure and reducing the economic
disparities between the parties on the other hand. Yet, the transfers
envisaged within this framework have so far failed to materialise due to
the lack of political will on the part of the EU.
d.The First Results of the Customs Union
Trade figures after the completion of the Customs Union reveal that, in
1996, our imports from the EU rose by 34.7% compared to 1995 and reached
22.7 billion dollars, while our exports, amounting to 11.477 billion
dollars, rose by only 3.6%. The EU preserved its place as our biggest
trading partner with a 52.9% share in our imports and 49.5% in our
exports. This trend continued in 1997 and 1998. Turkey's exports to the
EU rose from 12.2 billion dollars in 1997 to 13.4 billion dollars in
1998 and imports from the EU increased from 24 billion dollars in 1997
to 24.8 billion dollars in 1998. In 1997, the share of Turkish imports
from EU in total imports increased further reaching 51.1% and in 1998
52.5%, also the share of EU exports in total exports increased from
46.6% in 1997 to 50% in 1998. According to 1997 figures, Turkey's share
in total EU exports is 3.1% representing the significance of Turkey's
potential as a growing market for the EU while Turkey's share in total
EU imports is 1.8%.
Since the EU had already abolished its tariffs for imports from Turkey
before the Customs Union, the only trade barriers being quotas for
textiles that could not be filled by Turkey, the Customs Union did not
bring about a significant liberalisation for our exports to the EU.
Since 66% of our exports to the EU consist of consumer goods, they are
sensitive to changes in European demand. The slow growth rate recorded
in Germany, our biggest trading partner within the EU, impeded the
growth of our exports to that country in 1996. Our exports to the EU are
expected to rise with a return to higher growth rates in the Union. Our
industry has also adapted itself very well to the new competitive
environment, and not a single sector suffered from important problems.
Turkey's efforts to align itself to the EU's commercial policy towards
third countries produced the Free Trade Agreements with EFTA, Israel,
Romania, the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia,
Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria. Negotiations with Poland have been
successfully completed and the agreement will be signed in the near
future. The Agreement with Macedonia has been initialled, and the
negotiation processes have been launched with Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt
and the Palestinian National Authority. Preparations for alignment to
the EU's GSP are also underway. Agreement has been reached with the EU
to further liberalise trade in agricultural products and a Free Trade
Agreement with the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) entered into
force on 1 August 1996. The Customs Union constitutes a very important
step towards Turkey's full integration with the EU. It has also
demonstrated that, despite predictions to the contrary, the Turkish
economy was able to withstand EU competition.
6.The European Union's Enlargement Process and Turkey
Turkey attached particular importance to the EU's current enlargement
process for two main reasons. Firstly, having played an active role in
the demise of the Soviet bloc, it was only natural for Turkey to aspire
for inclusion in the new European architecture which it helped to build.
Second, the Association between Turkey and the EU aims at Turkey's full
membership in the EU, as underlined once again with the Customs Union
whose dynamics aim at bringing about further integration between the two
Parties. This is why Turkey kept the question of inclusion in the EU's
enlargement process on the agenda of Turkey-EU relations. At the last
Association Council of 29 April 1997, the EU reconfirmed Turkey's
eligibility for membership and asked the Commission to prepare
recommendations to deepen Turkey-EU relations, while claiming that the
development of this relationship depended on a number of factors
relating to Greece, Cyprus and human rights.
The Commission, however, excluded Turkey from the enlargement process in
its report entitled "Agenda 2000" which it disclosed on 16 July 1997.
While the report conceded that the Customs Union was functioning
satisfactorily and that it had demonstrated Turkey's ability to adapt to
the EU norms in many areas, it repeated the same political and economic
arguments against Turkey and made no reference to Turkey's full
membership objective. The Commission unveiled on the same day as "Agenda
2000", the "Communication" to enhance relations with Turkey, where it
reconfirmed Turkey's eligibility and brought a number of recommendations
ranging from liberalisation of trade in services to consumer protection,
that aim at taking Turkey-EU relations beyond the Customs Union, but
cited a number of political issues as pre-conditions for moving our
The fact that the EU confirmed Turkey's eligibility for membership but
excluded it from the enlargement process has been seen as a
contradiction. The Commission opted to propose measures that would
reinforce the relationship within their current framework and
complemented these measures with the idea of inviting Turkey to the
European Conference. In the light of the EU's claims that all candidates
would be judged according to the same objective criteria and that there
would be no prejudice in their evaluation, Turkey found the Commission's
approach unjust and discriminatory.
As a result, even though the Commission argued that the same criteria
were applied to Turkey and the other candidates, they produced logically
7.The Luxembourg European Council and the Following Period
Although the decisions of the Luxembourg Summit reflected by and large
the contents of the Commission's "Agenda 2000", the following points
related to Turkey need to be highlighted:
· Turkey's eligibility was reconfirmed.
· The EU decided to set up a strategy to prepare Turkey for accession
and to create a special procedure to review the developments to be made.
· Turkey was invited to the European Conference, but a number of
unacceptable pre-conditions were put forward.
· The development of Turkey-EU relations was made conditional on certain
economic, political and foreign policy questions.
· The Commission was asked to submit suitable proposals to enhance
In a statement issued the day after the Summit, the Turkish Government
criticised the EU's attitude, stated that Turkey's goal of full
membership and Association would nevertheless be maintained, but that
the development of bilateral relations depended on the EU's honouring
its commitments, and that it would not discuss with the EU issues
remaining outside the contractual context of the bilateral relations as
long as the EU did not change its attitude. In line with this statement
Turkey did not participate in the inaugural meeting of the European
Conference held in London on 12 March 1998. Turkey has thus made it
clear that the way out of this difficult situation in the bilateral
relations depended on the political will to be displayed by the EU.
The Commission published its recommendations for a "European Strategy"
on 4 March 1998. Its contents were more-or-less similar to former
packages which the EU promised but failed to deliver in the past.
Moreover, the ambiguity over how this package would be financed
prevented Turkey from being optimistic about its chances of being put
into effect soon. The Commission itself conceded that the implementation
of this package would require considerable financial resources.
The summit meeting held in Cardiff on 15-16 June 1998 offered a good
opportunity to rectify the unwarranted difficult period which Turkey-EU
relations entered into following the Luxembourg Summit. Although certain
positive developments were achieved with regard to the language used for
Turkey in the Presidency Conclusions of the Summit, they were not
sufficient for Turkey to modify its policy outlined after the Luxembourg
Summit. An important result of the Cardiff Summit for Turkey-EU
relations was the EU leaders' endorsement of the Commission's "European
Strategy" for Turkey and the request made to the Commission to find
solutions with a view to making available the financial resources
required for the implementation of the "European Strategy".
In the Statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs following the
Cardiff Summit, the positive developments mentioned above were noted and
the EU's quest for finding the financial resources required by the
"European Strategy" was interpreted as an indication of the EU's
awareness of the need for fulfilling its obligations towards Turkey with
due emphasis on the importance of concrete steps in this area. The
Statement nevertheless underlined the contrast between the pre-accession
strategy devised for the other candidates and the "European Strategy"
for Turkey, which consisted simply of a set of ideas whose financing
remained uncertain. It also stressed the fact that Turkey would not
accept the subjection of its candidacy to additional political
pre-conditions, that the parameters put forward in the Government
Statement of 14 December 1997 remained valid, and that Greece's
persistent obstructions would continue to have negative effects on
In fact, the Strategy does not contain new elements. Most of the
proposals made in it reiterate commitments contained in earlier
agreements which have not been fulfilled over the years. Although four
rounds of talks were completed, there has not been sufficient progress
in the implementation of the Strategy which was proposed by the EU as a
basis for the development of Turkey's relations with the EU. The lack of
financial resources and a proper perspective for Turkey's accession are,
in fact, the main obstacles which impede the proper implementation of
the Strategy. Consequently, the Strategy has been insufficient in
bringing Turkey's relations to the desired level.
At the Cologne European Council held on 3-4 June 1999, the initiative
was taken by the German Presidency with a view to ensuring the
recognition of Turkey's candidate status on an equal footing with the
others. Compared to the previous Government in Germany, the new
Coalition Government which came to power in October 1998 seemed to have
taken a more positive line regarding Turkey's quest for EU membership.
However, the objections of some EU Member States prevented this
initiative from being realised. As a consequence, the EU refrained from
taking a decision to include Turkey in the accession process. This
constituted yet another failure of the EU to recognise Turkey's
candidate status clearly and unambiguously. Therefore, in the statement
made by the Deputy-Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 4
June 1999, Turkey's appreciation of the initiative taken by the German
Presidency was expressed, but it was also declared that since the
discriminatory approach towards Turkey remained unchanged at the Cologne
Summit concerning the recognition of its candidate status, the decision
adopted by the Turkish Government on 14 December 1997 following the
Luxembourg Summit, pertaining to the conduct of its relations with the
EU would remain valid.
The EU Foreign Ministers, at their Gymnich-type meeting on 4 and 5
September in Saariselka, in Finland, had discussions on aid to Turkey
following the earthquake in northwestern part of Turkey in August 1999
and on future relations between Turkey and the Union.
However, no agreement was reached at the meeting on Turkey's candidate
On the other hand, EU Council President, Finnish Foreign Minister Tarja
Halonen invited Turkish Foreign Minister İsmail Cem to attend a working
lunch after the General Affairs Council meeting 13 September 1999 in
Brussels. This provided an opportunity to express the Turkish views
concerning the need for reconstruction after the earthquake, as well as
the current Turkish-EU relations.
In addition to the two emergency humanitarian aid packages of 2 million
euros each granted to Turkey in the week preceding the earthquake, the
consensus has been reached at the meeting for another humanitarian aid
package of 30 million Euros for the reconstruction.
It was understood that 150 million Euros foreseen for the 3-year period
may now be released. In fact, this amount which is divided into 15 and
135 million Euros, has already been foreseen within the framework of the
"European Strategy for Turkey". "Unanimity rule" is required only for
the 15 million Euro part, whereas the other part of the said amount is
subject to consensus.
The European Investment Bank has decided to launch a loan of 500-600
million Euro to help Turkey tackle the consequences of the earthquake.
The allocation to Turkey of a "substantial part" of the resources of the
MEDA II programme for 2000-2007 period has also been foreseen.
However, Greece has not lifted its veto on the 375 million Euro from
budgetary resource or from the 750 million Euro of the European
Investment Bank for Turkey as envisaged in 1995 when the Customs Union
between Turkey and EU was realised.
In preparation for the European Council to be held in Helsinki in 10-11
December 1999, the Commission issued its second regular Report on the
progress which Turkey makes towards accession on 13 October 1999. In the
Composite Paper which was also presented together with the Progress
Report, the Commission took important steps by proposing that Turkey be
considered as a candidate and backed this with concrete actions similar
to those provided for the other candidates. Turkey welcomed these
proposals that would prepare her for full membership to the EU. In the
Statement made by the Foreign Ministry of Turkey, it was stated that the
endorsement of all these EU Commission proposals at the Helsinki
European Council, in other words, Turkey's recognition as an official
candidate with all its inherent modalities, would initiate a new phase
in Turkey-EU relations.
After the OSCE Summit held in İstanbul, Foreign Minister Cem gave a
lunch to his EU counterparts. At this meeting, Turkish candidacy at the
European Council in Helsinki was discussed at length and Turkey was able
to present the latest developments.
The Helsinki European Council held on 10-11 December 1999 produced a
breakthrough in Turkey-EU relations. At Helsinki, Turkey was officially
recognised without any precondition as a candidate state on an equal
footing with the other candidate states. While recognising Turkey's
candidate status, the Presidency Conclusions of the Helsinki European
Council endorsed the proposals of the Commission made on 13 October
1999. Thus, Turkey, like other candidate states, will reap the benefits
form a pre-accession strategy to stimulate and support its reforms. This
will also include an Accession Partnership, which will be dawn up
accordingly, combined with a National Program for the adoption of the
acquis. Turkey will participate in Community programs open to other
candidate countries and agencies. Turkey will be invited to the meetings
between candidate states and the Union in the context of the accession
process. A single framework for coordinating all sources of EU financial
assistance for pre-accession will also be created.
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