Friday, August 22, 2008

New NPAA Introduced (Thank Heavens!)

AKP has released Turkey's third National Program for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA). The NPAA essentially lays out a game plan by which the Turkish government will work to harmonize Turkish law with that of the EU. In order to accede, Turkey must align its policy with that of the EU according to 35 chapters of the acquis, each pertaining to different policy areas. These chapters will be unanimously opened and closed by the European Council throughout the accession process and only upon closure of all 35 chapters will Turkey qualify for membership.

In accordance with negotiations of the acquis, Turkey is still working in toe with its Accession Partnership Document (APD). The APD defines the parameters of Turkey's Accession Partnership Agreement and lists the many areas in which reform is required if Turkey is to be considered for membership; the NPAA is Turkey's response to the APD, thereby laying out a plan as to how Turkey will accomplish the conditions of the APD. The APD was last amended in February, but since then little has been done to produce an NPAA since AKP was fought in a struggle for its very survival.

Click here for the most recent APD. (See also Feb. 27 post).

Although the Commission decided in October 2004 to recommend the commencement of accession talks, thereby opening chapters of the acquis for negotiation, the Commission stressed that Turkey would be monitored by EU authorities throughout the accession process. The European Council decision in December 2004 to commence accession talks in accord with the Commission's recommendation made clear that negotiations would be open-ended and that no end could be guaranteed. So far, Turkey has opened and closed only one chapter of the acquis (science and technology policy) while five others remain open. Further chapters cannot be closed until Turkey implements the additional protocol of the Ankara Agreement. The additional protocol expands the conditions of the Customs Union to all EU member states, thereby allowing Cypriot ships to access its ports. Further, eight of the chapters pertaining to trade and commerce will not be opened until Turkey implements the additional protocol.

From the Turkish Daily News:
The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has drafted a new national program regarding European Union accession, in a sign that the government plans to reinvigorate EU-backed reforms.

The 400-page Turkish National Program for the Adoption of the EU Acquis, which outlines timetables and the government's commitments to comply with EU standards, is made up of four parts: introduction, political criteria, economic criteria and membership commitments. The plan includes 120 to 130 legal amendments and 342 secondary regulations.

“This is a well-grounded program that takes into account Turkey's realities,” government spokesman, Cemil Çiçek, told reporters after a Cabinet meeting late Monday.

The document will be published in hard copy after Foreign Minister Ali Babacan's meetings with the opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations, noted Çiçek.

Following the first wave of speedy reforms between 2002 and 2004, the government's performance paradoxically slowed, despite the formal launch of accession negotiations with the EU in October 2005. The domestic fluctuations on the political landscape -- including the painful presidential election process in 2007 leading to snap elections and the closure case filed at the Constitutional Court to disband the ruling party -- had a negative influence on Ankara's bumpy path to the EU.

In a move that might appear to be a fair response to EU support during the lingering court process, the government has pushed forward with reforms. However, what counts for Brussels is not the launch of a program on paper but how speedily and effectively it will be implemented by the AKP. Although EU officials are in summer recess until the end of August, the number one agenda item on Turkey's desk in Brussels after their return will be the reforms. The government's further efforts will be a serious message demonstrating Ankara's firm commitment to sticking to EU objectives after a long period of fatigue.
Many of the reforms in the NPAA will prove quite difficult to pass through parliament, especially as the most controversial and most pressing will require amendment of the constitution. With CHP suggesting that it will not work with AKP to amend the constitution, AKP will not be able to pass the most fundamental of the reforms in the NPAA until it is able to increase its working majority in parliamentary elections or a new constitution is passed. CHP recalcitrance, and most importantly, the precedent the Constitutional Court set with the headscarf decision by which the Court assumed the power to review constitutional amendments, will make constitutional reform all the more pressing. If AKP tries to carry out reform without first passing a new constitution, any amendment to the Turkish Constitution to which CHP is opposed will likely be submitted for review by the Consitutional Court. Resistance to reform is great, and with AKP now significantly weakened and perhaps more hesitant to enact the kind of bold reform that the party itself seems quite conflicted over, time will only tell how successful Turkey will be toward acheiving the conditions laid out in the APD. However, a new NPAA is a hopeful sign and observers can only wait and see if the process will be truly reinvigorated.

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