“I confirmed ... the goal to open three chapters is still under the German [EU] presidency,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told reporters after talks with State Minister Ali Babacan, also Turkey’s chief negotiator for EU talks, in Brussels. If realized, the opening of three chapters would mark major progress in Turkey’s accession process, in which talks have commenced on just two chapters and concluded on only one.
EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy said the three negotiating chapters most ready for negotiations with Turkey were economic and monetary affairs, statistics, and financial control issues.
Sarkozy’s victory in the French presidential election on Sunday raised concerns that he could try to stop accession talks with Turkey in line with his clear opposition in pre-election speeches to Turkey’s entry into the EU. Sarkozy has said he instead favors a “Mediterranean Union” that would include Turkey and other Muslim countries.
‘Take responsibility for consequences’
Rehn dismissed concerns over the impact of Sarkozy’s victory, saying the decision to start talks with Turkey was taken unanimously. “If one or several member states want to change that negotiating mandate, then it is up to them to take the initiative and also take responsibility for possible consequences,” he said. He congratulated Sarkozy on his election win and added that it was not his task to speculate on whether the election result “is good or bad.”
“I trust that France will stick to its commitments undertaken in the course of the EU accession process,” he added. In March the EU opened the chapter on enterprise and industry policy; however no chapters can be closed until Turkey opens its ports and airports to traffic from EU member Greek Cyprus.
“In my view the best way for the EU to work with Turkey in this sensitive and difficult time is by sticking to our commitment, by being firm and fair,” said Rehn. “Fair by keeping our word concerning the accession process, and firm by applying the criteria of accession rigorously.”
Nagy said that at their meeting Rehn had reiterated to Babacan the EU’s concern over political turmoil in Turkey about the election of the next president. “Commissioner Rehn underscored the importance of respect for democratic principles and the rule of law in the Turkish electoral process,” she stated.
Rehn told reporters that a decision on whether Turkey should be allowed to join the EU should only be made “closer to completion of the negotiation process, because only then can we see if Turkey is able to meet all the legal, democratic and economic criteria.”