Bağış, speaking to a group of journalists on the sidelines of his talks with senior EU officials -- including Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn -- in Brussels on Wednesday, said the new appointments will be made soon. He said the EU process would gain new momentum if local administrators are also included in the efforts to bring Turkish standards into line with those of the EU. “In every province, there will be a deputy governor who will be in charge of EU affairs. We are working with the Interior Ministry. We will send about 150 EU experts into the provinces. The EU membership process is now making an impact throughout Turkey,” he said.
Turkey opened accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, but there has been limited progress since then due to a dispute over Cyprus and objections in certain EU countries against Turkish accession. Surveys show public enthusiasm for EU membership has declined considerably in Turkey in recent years. Bağış said new units are being created within the Prime Ministry’s Secretariat-General for EU Affairs -- the main state body that specializes in coordinating the process of harmonization with the EU’s extensive regulations, called the acquis communautaire -- to better deal with the technical requirements of the membership process.
The chief negotiator also said the EU Commission’s latest progress report on Turkey, released in autumn, showed that Turkey was in a good situation compared to previous years. Noting that past reports extensively highlighted issues of freedom of speech and human rights violations, Bağış said this year’s report has noted progress in all these fields. “There is nothing in the progress report that would make us ashamed now,” he added.
Bağış also claimed that there are more obstacles in Turkey than in Europe towards Turkey’s accession, saying illegal anti-government groups are hindering the process. “There are criminal groups trying to hinder the EU membership process. We are very determined, as the government, and will not allow this,” Bağış said, in apparent reference to the shadowy Ergenekon network.