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Preserving Europe : Offer Turkey a ‘privileged partnership’ instead 15 décembre 2004

Posted by Acturca in Turkey-EU / Turquie-UE.
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The International Herald Tribune, Wednesday, December 15, 2004

By Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg *

Should the European Union give full membership to Turkey ? If we go by the European Commission’s own report on the question, the answer should be no. The report’s list of special regulations that would apply to Turkey — most notably regarding free movement of labor — shows that the EU’s offer of membership would only lead to second-class status for Turkey. A privileged partnership instead of an underprivileged membership is the better — and more honest — option for both sides.

The EU and Turkey are linked by a long history of friendly relations. It is in the interest of all parties to expand this special relationship, not least for security and geostrategic reasons. But full membership for Turkey would overtax the EU’s capacities.

Experience has taught us that every enlargement of the EU presents a particular challenge. Adapting structures, balancing of economic interests and aligning « political cultures » requires considerable patience and sensitivity. Full membership for Turkey would constitute the most far-reaching enlargement in the EU’s history.

It is not only a question of whether Turkey can fulfill the political and economic requirements of the EU entry rules known as the Copenhagen criteria, but also whether the EU, according to the same criteria, can add new member states while « maintaining the momentum of European integration. »

The EU has so far failed to determine whether any further accession would endanger this momentum. In fact, the EU still lacks a fundamental doctrine of enlargement. Its borders should create a close and comprehensive bond between Europe and its neighbors. This can be done successfully on the EU’s border with Turkey — but not on along Turkey’s other borders.

At the same time, the EU cannot shy away from security challenges posed by instability in what is usually referred to as the Greater Middle East. Many of the objectives upheld by advocates of Turkey’s EU membership deserve our support. These goals include capitalizing on Turkey’s potential as a strategic partner in an unstable region, promoting the courageous reform process in Turkey to bring the country closer to the goal of a stable and democratic order based on the rule of law, improving human rights and the protection of minorities, and furthering Turkey’s general integration into the West.

However, one might ask whether these objectives should only be achieved by pursuing full EU membership for Turkey. A privileged partnership would save Europe from « overstretch » and tie Turkey even closer to the West. This partnership could consist of three core elements:

First, institutional cooperation between the EU and Turkey should be improved, by expanding existing structures or establishing new ones. Accession by Turkey to the European Economic Area would be problematic, but it would be sensible to use the economic area’s structures and institutions as a model and to expand cooperation in the Association Council.

A joint EU-Turkey committee should be established to adopt and monitor the implementation of EU legislation applicable to the privileged partnership. The joint committee would be comprised of members of the European Commission and EU member states as well as Turkish representatives. Furthermore, an EU-Turkey Council of foreign ministers would define general political guidelines and provide a policy impetus. Finally, a committee comprised of members of the Turkish and European parliaments should be appointed.

Second, the easing of restrictions in numerous policy areas should be considered. A privileged partnership could expand the already existing customs union between the EU and Turkey by establishing unlimited exchange of goods in a free trade area. Within the EU’s « four basic freedoms, » the removal of restrictions on the free movement of services could be a starting point. The complete freedom of movement for workers should not be introduced, but visa regulations could be eased for residents of border areas who regularly undertake cross-border travel and existing regulations on visa-free travel could be extended. In addition, a more comprehensive adoption of EU policies appears to be unproblematic across a wide range of areas.

Finally, Turkey should be offered the prospect of membership in European foreign, security and defense policy structures on an equal basis.

The European Commission has called for negotiations without foregone conclusions, but it is unacceptable that the only alternative be the failure of negotiations, against which the commission itself has warned. The mandate for open-ended negotiations must therefore also include the prospect of a privileged partnership. In this way, Turkey would not be rebuffed and the chance of real European political integration would be preserved.

* Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg represents the CDU/CSU in the Bundestag, Germany’s Parliament, where he is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.


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