Turkey’s EU membership process after the 12 September referendum

29 September 2010

Egemen Bağiş, Turkish Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator, said Turkey is becoming more democratic, improving its human rights and creating a free market economy. By voting ‘yes’ in the referendum on a new Constitution,  the Turkish public gave a strong mandate for the Europeanisation project, wiping away the remnants of the military constitution, leading to a fully-fledged democracy and EU membership.

Reforms include: positive discrimination for women, children and the handicapped; an extension of workers’ rights; limits on the jurisdiction of the military courts; and improvements to the Constitutional Court.

Religious tolerance is increasing and services were held in Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches;, and showing its ability to accept criticism, the Turkish government has accepted the European Court of Human Rights’ decision against it in the Hrant Dink case.

Unlike some Member States, which are expelling the Roma, the Turkish government is holding an international seminar to discuss the issues and building schools and houses for them. In moves to grant more cultural and political freedom, election candidates will be allowed to write or broadcast in languages other than Turkish and prisoners allowed to talk to visitors and other inmates in their mother tongues. The Emasya Protocol on security, public order and assistance has been abolished and the role of the military courts curtailed.

These measures are being taken because Turkish citizens deserve higher standards: “Raising standards is more important than opening chapters”.

The Minister said Turkey can supply all Europe’s needs for smart, sustainable growth. Turkish Membership will be an asset, not a burden, as it has a young workforce and one of the highest growth rates in the world.

Mr Bağiş outlined five key requests Turkey would like to make to the EU:

  • Its membership application should be treated exactly like other candidate-countries.
  • The EU should take more steps against the PKK, the Kurdish terrorirst organisation, in its fight against global terrorism.
  • Turkish citizens should not have to apply for visas to enter an EU Member State, particularly when citizens of other non-Member States do not have to.
  • Every solution Turkey has proposed about Cyprus has been rejected, without any counter proposals being offered.
  • EU candidate countries should be invited to EU Summits, as in the past.

The Constitutional Reform Package was an important step in EU negotiations. All sides in Turkey must keep up the momentum for reforms, and the EU should move beyond words of praise to concrete action.