Written Answers. - Turkish-EU Relations.

Jack Wall


38 Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the state of EU Turkish relations; and the steps, if any, the EU is taking to enhance its relationship with Turkey. [22160/98]

The European Union is convinced that it is in the interests of both the Union and Turkey that their bilateral relations be developed further. With that aim in view, the EU has been consistently prepared to assist Turkey in the further reform of its political and economic systems. The EU's relations with Turkey have been on a formal footing for some 35 years, going back to the Ankara Accord of 1963. The accord provides, inter alia, for the implementation of a customs union between the parties, the final stage of which was established on 1 January 1996. The accompanying financial protocol, however, intended to assist Turkey in restructuring its industry, has been blocked. In an attempt to redress this situation, the Commission has recently introduced draft regulations which could facilitate the freeing of moneys provided for under the protocol. Ireland has consistently supported the unblocking of financial assistance to Turkey and is closely examining the Commission's proposals.

In the wider perspective of its aspirations for Union membership, Turkey's eligibility for accession on the basis of the same criteria as the other applicant states was confirmed by the European Council in Luxembourg last December. While the political and economic conditions enabling accession negotiations to be envisaged have yet to be attained, the European Council nonetheless considered it important to draw up a strategy to prepare Turkey for accession by bringing it closer to the European Union in every field. The strategy includes, inter alia, the development of the possibilities afforded by the EC-Turkey Association Agreement, an intensification of the customs union, implementation of financial cooperation and participation by Turkey in certain programmes and agencies.

The European Council stressed that the consolidation of Turkey's links with the EU depends on that country's pursuit of the political and economic reforms on which it has embarked, including the alignment of human rights standards and practices with those in force in the EU; respect for and protection of minorities; the establishment of satisfactory and stable relations between Greece and Turkey; the settlement of disputes by legal process, including the International Court of Justice, and support for negotiations under the aegis of the UN on a political settlement in Cyprus on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.

It is well known that Turkey has been unhappy with aspects of the EU's approach and has argued that the Customs Union is viable only in the context of future EU membership. Turkey has not attended meetings of the European Conference and decided to withdraw from the Association Council meeting, due to have taken place last May. In order to give fresh momentum to EU-Turkey relations, the EU Heads of State and Government, meeting at the European Council in Cardiff in June, invited the Commission to carry forward the EU strategy for relations with Turkey, with the aim of preparing Turkey for EU membership.
Ireland welcomes the timely re-affirmation by the Cardiff European Council of the essentially dynamic and inclusive nature of the enlargement process as agreed at Luxembourg. Turkey is an important partner for the Union, and it is in the fundamental interest of both parties — the Union and Turkey — to develop relations more intensively. We believe Turkey will give careful consideration to the steps already taken and explore the potential of the strategy for relations outlined by the European Council.
I may add that the EU and Turkey are also actively engaged in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership — commonly referred to as the Barcelona process — established in November 1995. The process seeks to promote a comprehensive partnership between the EU and its Mediterranean partners, including Turkey. It aims to progressively transform the region into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity. Ireland attaches great importance to the Barcelona process and is committed to ensuring its success.