The relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) were quite calm in 2008 compared to previous years, besides, they were far from meeting the expectations.
During the first half of 2008, EU waited for the result of the lawsuit filed for the closure of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party. EU officials frequently emphasized that the Turkish Constitutional Court's decision on such matter should be in accordance with the principles of Venice Commission, Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters an democracy, as well as decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. EU said that Turkey's EU process would be affected negatively otherwise.
Welcoming the court's non-closure decision, European Commission asked Turkey to rapidly review all its statutory law regarding the functioning of political parties and democracy, including the Constitution, in order to prevent "future accidents".
Furthermore, EU demanded Turkey to speed up its efforts for reforms which lost velocity in recent years.
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn's visit to Turkey between April 10-12 gave the parties the opportunity to share expectations at the highest level.
Turkey's importance in terms of the preservation of regional peace and stability was better understood following the clashes that arose in Georgia in the summer of 2008.
Turkey attracted attention with its balanced and constructive policy both during and after the war in Georgia. Moreover, EU praised Turkey's active foreign policy regarding the stability of Iraq, solution of the nuclear problem in Iran and elimination of the conflicts between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Turkey's demand for "leaving aside political approaches towards its negotiation process" could not be met in the real sense this year either.
While Turkey could not get over France's arbitrary hindrance in five chapters that were directly related to membership, the Greek Cypriot administration also blocked the ways to at least two chapters with its expectation for a unilateral concession.
Together with the previously suspended eight chapters, including one of the five chapters hindered by France, Turkey's progress was limited in a total of fourteen chapters under those circumstances.
During his talks in Brussels, Turkey's Foreign Minister and Chief Negotiator for EU Talks Ali Babacan brought up the fact that EU could not prepare the review reports for ten chapters although it had been two years since the completion of the review process. Babacan's remarks displaying EU's failure in doing its howework were entered in records.
Babacan also said that opening of two chapters during every new rotating presidency of EU became a sort of tradition and such attitude made Turkey think as if there was a "confidential agreement" on such matter.
During the Slovenian rotating presidency of EU in the first half of 2008, chapters on "company law" and "intellectual property law" were opened to negotiation with Turkey. During the French presidency in the second half, two more chapters on "free movement of capital" and "information society and media" were opened to negotiation.
European Commission's progress report dated November 5, which assessed Turkey's performance in membership preparations during the last one year, criticized the inconclusive studies regarding the preparation of a civil constitution and asked for the implementation of reforms that would strengthen democracy and human rights.
The report also praised Turkish President Abdullah Gul's efforts to play a conciliatory role for political actors and civil society, his success in establishing a good working relationship with the government, as well as his calls for the speeding up of EU reforms and frequent visits to foreign countries as part of an active foreign policy.
The report said that "lack of dialogue and consensus spirit among leading political parties negatively affected the proper functioning of political institutions" and "concerns over the objectivity of the jurisdiction continued".
The Enlargement Strategy, which was announced by the European Commission together with the progress report, emphasized that Turkey's strategical importance increased with respect to key issues such as energy security, prevention and solution of conflicts and providing regional peace in the Middle East and the South Caucasus region.
According to the strategy, Turkey has become a "stronger stability element" in its problematic region thanks to its negotiations with EU and the reforms it carried out as part of such process.
Calling on the Turkish government to carry on with reforms, the strategy said that the reform areas with priority could be listed as amendments to be introduced to the law on political parties, a constitutional reform, elimination of obstacles before the freedom of expression and improvement of women's rights.
Moreover, in the draft decision written by European Parliament's Dutch rapporteur on Turkey Ria Ooman-Ruijten, it was stated that the trial of suspects of "Operation Ergenekon" was a pleasing development. The draft said that "the investigation should continue in order to completely reveal the organization's branches leaking into public institutions".
Releasing a decision on December 8, foreign ministers of EU member states also asked Turkey to amend its law on political parties as soon as possible.
EU asked Turkey to "actively support" the talks in Cyprus and contribute to the optimistic atmosphere in the island with concrete measures for a solution as well.
Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2009, 17:56