Turkey's "EU accession process" somewhat slowed down in 2009 due to the deadlock with EU over opening of Turkish ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.
The EU countries had decided in 2006 not to open 8 chapters in accession negotiations and putting on hold the conclusion of the remaining chapters in process on the grounds that Turkey failed to fulfill its responsibilities stemming from the "Additional Protocol" to the Association Agreement which stipulates Turkey to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels. The EU countries asked the Commission to follow up on the issue in its reports on 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Turkey which refused EU's demand, said it would only open the ports when the EU fulfilled its promises and removed the embargo on Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which voted in favour of the Annan Plan for settlement.
The Greek Cypriot administration argued that with the 2006 decision, the EU countries gave 2009 as deadline for Turkey to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.
EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn, who wrote the decision back in 2006, said 2009 was not a deadline.
The commission, in its report published on October 14, 2009, noted that Turkey did not fulfill its obligation to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels.
In this respect, foreign ministers of EU countries who gathered on December 7-8 for a General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels to assess the conclusions on EU enlargement, refused the demands of Greek Cypriot administration which pushed for new sanctions --including the suspension of the negotiations-- during the meeting, and decided to reassess the situation in the future.
In the document adopted during the meeting, EU foreign ministers expressed "regret" over Turkey's refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot vessels, --as stipulated by the "Additional Protocol" to the Association Agreement-- despite repeated calls.
The Greek Cypriot administration declared that it would block opening of 6 chapters in accession negotiations with Turkey.
Though the Greek Cypriot administration announced that it would not block the opening of the Environment chapter, it will set forth preconditions for opening of chapters on "Free movement of Workers" (Chapter 2), "Energy" (Chapter 15), "Judiciary and Fundamental Rights" (Chapter 24), "Education and Culture" (Chapter 26), Foreign, Security and Defense Policy (Chapter 31).
These chapters are already being blocked by Greek Cypriot administration, Greece and the EU Commission.
With the opening of the Environment chapter on December 21, and the "Taxation" chapter during the Czech EU presidency in the first half of 2009, Turkey is currently carrying out negotiations with EU on 12 of the 33 negotiation chapters.
Considering the 8 chapters blocked by EU Commission, the 5 chapters blocked by France and the 9 chapters blocked by Greek Cypriot administration, (some of which overlap) only 4 or 5 chapters with strict opening criteria remain. Given these circumstances, it seems the pace of Turkey's accession negotiations will inevitably further slow down in the years to come.
"High level visits"
Frequency of high level visits by Turkish officials to EU bodies and officials increased in 2009. Through visits to Brussels, on the level of president, prime minister and main opposition leader, Turkey once more reiterated its commitment to the goal of EU membership.
EU Commission's President Jose Manuel Barroso who visited Turkey in 2009 said EU was still loyal to Turkey's accession process despite the statements by certain EU countries.
The signing of the intergovernmental agreement for Nabucco pipeline project --which will reduce EU's dependency on Russian gas-- at a ceremony on June 13, also attended by Barroso, created a strategic opportunity for cooperation between Turkey and EU.
EU, started voicing its expectancy from Turkey for a civilian constitution, more strongly.
In its "Progress Report", the EU Commission underlined that there was growing awareness in Turkey on the need for amending the constitution, to allow more democratization and provide more guarantees for fundamental rights, in line with EU standards.
The EU urged Turkey to review the articles of the constitution concerning, political parties, labour unions, and use of languages other than Turkish and remove obstacles in way of establishment of an ombudsmanship.
The commission criticized the government for not taking the draft constitution prepared by scholars into its agenda, the lack of consensus among political parties for amendment of the constitution.
The commission welcomed Turkey's efforts to normalise its relations with Armenia and the protocols signed to this end.
The EU welcomed Turkish government's democratic initiative, including measures addressing the "Kurdish issue", voicing its expectancy for concrete measures ensuring full rights and freedom for all.
The commission which showed a rather soft reaction to the dissolution of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) by the constitutional court said it was unfortunate that DTP refused to distance itself from terrorist organization PKK and condemn terrorism.