Flautre says 2013 shaping up to be a spring in Turkey-EU relations


17 February 2013 /GÖZDE NUR DONAT, ANKARA – Zaman –  As hopes rise on the revival of Turkey-EU relations after the French government agreed to open one of the chapters in the EU acquis, Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), stated that 2013 is preparing to be a very positive year for Turkey’s EU bid.

The French administration’s recent decision to lift its block on one of the five chapters it had blocked in the EU acquis communautaire for Turkey, Chapter 22, is expected to bring a new dynamism to the frozen relations between Turkey and the EU. Chapter 22, “Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments,” would be the first chapter to be opened in the last two-and-a-half years.

“The chapter [on the] regional [policy] is very important for Turkey. The authorities have managed to restart their engagement, this is really principal for Turkish accession [to the EU],” Flautre stated in an exclusive interview with Today’s Zaman on Feb. 14. “Everything is going very well in terms of the generation of a new dynamism, confidence and trustworthiness in [Turkey-EU] relations,” the EU parliamentarian noted.

Flautre: France considering opening more chapters

After two-and-a-half years without any significant progress in its EU bid, Turkish politicians have started to emphasize their impatience, saying that Turkey would abandon its roughly 50 years of aspiring to enter the EU. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took his criticisms of the EU to a whole new level beginning in January, saying that Turkey would seek entrance to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which he says is much more powerful than the EU. So the French initiative could be called timely in breaking the ice between Turkey and the EU.

Flautre claimed that lifting the block on Chapter 22 is just the first stage showing France’s positivity towards Turkish membership, and signals that French authorities may lift their block of other chapters. “It is the first stage showing the positive French vote. But we should also take [Greek] Cyprus into account. They are blocking chapters which are very important for the democratic reform process in Turkey,” she said.

Flautre signaled that the opening of Chapter 23, “Judiciary and fundamental rights,” and Chapter 24, “Justice, freedom and security,” are also very important for Turkish democracy and that progress on them is required. She stated that there is a will on the French side to open these chapters, but signaled that such a will may hit the obstacle of the Greek Cypriot administration.

Presentation of Turkey’s EU report provocative, Flautre says

The EU parliamentarian also mentioned Turkey’s own EU progress report, which was the first one prepared by Turkey, released on Dec. 31, 2012, covering the reforms made and implemented in Turkey in 2012. “Turkey’s will to progress on its EU membership is developing, this is for sure. This report, prepared by the ministry of [EU Affairs Minister] Mr. [Egemen] Bağış is very legitimate in purpose. It examines the negotiations to express the [Turkish] demands, and this is normal,” Flautre said. “But what is questionable is that the output from this report has been related with a number of provocative statements, related to the EU work,” she added, mentioning statements from EU Ministry officials targeting the EU’s progress report on Turkey in October.

Bağış recently stated that Turkey had prepared its own progress report after seeing irregularities in the EU’s Turkey report. Bağış’s remarks during the JPC meeting on the slow-moving accession process have also drawn criticism from Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, last week. Oomen-Ruijten criticized Bağış for “making reference only to the Turkish report during the speech,” and being one-sided by not mentioning the EU’s progress report. The 2012 EU progress report contains criticisms and concerns about the length of pretrial detention, the independence of the judiciary and minority rights in Turkey.