Turkey-EU relations: where to next?

27 January 2011

Egemen Bağiş, Turkish Minister for European Affairs and Chief Negotiator, began by describing a potential future scenario set in July 2012.

Turkey’s reform process

He felt assured that the scenario is attainable given the pace of reforms in the last year. The 2010 Progress Report pinpoints areas of solid progress. It no longer talks about the need to abolish the death penalty, torture or closing down of political parties, and considers the major steps carried on by the Turkish government.

The Minister gave examples of the acceleration of the reform process in Turkey and said that the Government is working ‘energetically’ on the Action Plan formulated after the referendum on Constitutional amendments.

Fast track negotiations

In a fair world, he said, all this reform should bring Turkey closer to EU membership. Progress in negotiations has been made, but the pace is not what Turkey wants or deserves, ‘largely due to some EU countries bringing domestic issues to the Union’s enlargement table’. He found it particularly difficult that Turkey cannot open the Energy chapter. He said that non membership would not only be objectionable and unthinkable from Turkey’s point of view, but illogical and irresponsible from the EU’s point of view.


He said that the Cypriot Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2012 was an opportunity for the EU to show its ‘unifying nature’, by making sure that both peoples of the island are represented by a ‘United’ Cyprus. Turkey is willing to do its share to find a ‘fair and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem’, but the EU has to help by: 

  • carrying out its promises to the Turkish Cypriots;
  • taking the Turco-EU relations out of the Cyprus issue.


The Minister said that no Turkish citizen feels less European than the time he tries to obtain a visa from an EU country. He wished that some European countries would show the same determination in facilitating the mobility of researchers, students and businessmen as they do in combating illegal migration.

Winning the hearts and minds of Turks and Europeans

A strong and credible enlargement policy enables the EU to achieve its own economic and political objectives, making the EU not only bigger, but politically and economically stronger. The EU is stronger with Turkey in it, especially at a time when the global balance of power is shifting.