Thursday, September 18, 2008

EU Troika Meets in İstanbul

The EU Troika met Monday to discuss the status of the accession process. Troika meetings bring the Turkish Foreign Minister together with the current and incoming presidents of the EU--France and the Czech Republic, respectively--and the EU Commission. Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, called on Turkey to enact the sweeping consitutional change it had promised to introduce in fall 2007, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan again unproductively criticized the EU for not opening up more chapters of the acquis. From TDZ:
The European Union has urged Turkey to overhaul its military-inspired Constitution to break out of a cycle of annual political crises and move forward with its disputed EU membership bid.

"Now is the time for Turkey to update its constitution to reflect the country and society it has become and to consolidate rights and freedoms for its citizens," Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said after talks with Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. "These reforms are necessary not only for Turkey's EU prospects but essentially for Turkey to break the cycle of its -- I dare to say -- annual political crises," he said.

Rehn said Ankara should take advantage of the end of the latest crisis, when the Constitutional Court last month rejected a public prosecutor's effort to ban the ruling party, to pursue reforms with renewed vigor. But Turkish analysts say that seems unlikely because of continuing political tensions, an economic slowdown and local elections next year.

Babacan said Ankara was pressing ahead with an ambitious reform program, called the Third National Program, to achieve its goal of full EU membership, but EU support was also necessary to complete the process. "We will continue to take steps for the opening of new chapters. We believe the Turkish people deserve a better quality of life," he said.

French Secretary of State for European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who chaired the talks after Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner left Brussels early, pledged that Paris would conduct the negotiations impartially despite President Nicolas Sarkozy's strong opposition to eventual Turkish membership.

Jouyet said France expected to open more chapters -- or policy areas -- for negotiation during its six months in the EU chair, which run until the end of December. Rehn said the chapters on free movement of capital and on information society and media policy were ripe for opening soon.

But Babacan referred pointedly to two areas on which France has blocked negotiations. "Turkey is also ready, for example, to open the chapters on economic and monetary policy and on culture and education, but there are some political considerations in play that are preventing that," he said.

He also said Turkey was ready to negotiate on energy policy, a key area for cooperation with the EU, which is seeking to diversify its energy sources away from dependence on Russia.
Mehmet Ali Birand considers Turkey's "foot dragging" in his column in today's TDN.

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