Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two More Chapters of Acquis Opened

The European Commission and Turkey opened up two more chapters of the 35-chapter acquis designed to harmonize Turkish and European policy. The two chapters opened pertained to corporate law and intellectual property rights. The Commission held out the promise of seven additional chapters should the reform process continue: food safety, taxation, employment, public procurement and the environment.

A rather defensive Ali Babacan reiterated that Turkey is not the only party to blame for the slow-moving accession talks and placed guilt on France for blocking five chapters, including the "Transport Policy" chapter that is suspended by the European Commission at-large until Turkey comes into compliance with promises made that it would open its ports to Cyprus in accordance with the Customs Union to which both countries are party. As a result of Turkish recalcitrance in regard to Cyprus, no chapters can be closed until Turkey opens its ports. Babacan's comments are unnecessarily combative and played on the ears of an already irritable European press. Further, in Turkey, they reaffirm the notion that the EU reform process is stalled because of shifting political positions in Europe (see June 3 post). I had the chance to meet with a high-level municipal official here in Kocaeli yesterday and he informed me that it was not Turkey that was changing, but rather the shifting positions of EU member states. However, the European Commission's reports have changed little in their recommendations and the Turkish state has done little to meet the Commission's demands since the reform slowdown (see Jan. 19 post). While it is true that attitudes of EU member states have shifted with the election of politicians who are less than eager to see Turkey accede, the position of the Commission has changed in no way whatsoever. Further, the French refusal to allow the Commission to open up the four chapters, in addition to the one already suspended by the Commission, does not prevent Turkey from making progress toward accession and actually following through on the Commission's recommendations. Additionally, such rhetoric is inappropriate coming from Babacan who is still serving as both the chief negotiator of the accession and foreign minister. The Commission has long requested that the AKP government designate another person to meet the hefty demands of the job. This is especially necessary in view that more chapters are waiting to be negotiated.

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