EU calls for new Turkish constitution to sort out entrenched problems

The flags of the EU, Germany and Turkey are pictured before the arrival of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to deliver a speech at the Iss Arena in Duesseldorf February 27, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

June 21, 2012, Thursday/ 15:10:00

The European Union is preparing to welcome Turkey's efforts to make a new constitution to sort out its decades-old problems. In the 50th Turkey-EU Association Council meeting slated for Friday in Brussels, the EU will tell Ankara that implementation of the constitutional reform is of key importance and will note the 27-nation bloc's satisfaction with government's efforts to include both political parties and NGOs in the process of drafting the new constitution.

“The EU welcomes Turkey's efforts to ensure the broadest possible consultation in this work, involving all political parties and civil society,” the 19-page document outlining the EU position for the meeting, says.

The EU will note at the meeting that many issues Turkey faces, including the Kurdish issue, could be sorted out by a new democratic constitution and will call on the Turkish government to re-energize its “democratic opening,” an initiative introduced by the government to address the Kurdish issue by expanding democratic and cultural rights of the Kurds. 

The document, in this regard, takes note of a recent meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) to discuss ways to solve the Kurdish problem.

“The EU encourages Turkey to re-launch the democratic opening to address in particular the Kurdish issue. The constitutional reform provides a useful framework in that respect,” the document reads.

The EU document agreed on by 27 member countries will commend Turkey in consolidating the civilian control of the military while criticizing limits on freedom of expression and press freedom in particular.

While applauding the referendum on Sept. 12, 2010, on a constitutional reform package, the EU says in the document that the implementation of the reforms approved in the referendum in line with EU standards is of key importance.

“Building on progress made, the EU invites Turkey to further improve the observance of fundamental rights and freedoms in law and in practice, in particular in the area of freedom of expression,” the document says. “The restrictions in practice on the freedom of the media, the large number of legal cases launched against, and arrests of, writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, and frequent website bans all raise serious concerns that need to be addressed.”

Backing for Greek Cypriot oil and gas exploration

The 27-nation bloc will also express backing for the Greek Cypriot administration in its oil and gas exploration efforts in the eastern Mediterranean, a move protested by Turkey, and will voice concerns about Turkey's decision to suspend dialogue with the EU presidency when it is taken over by Greek Cyprus on July 1.

The EU is also set to repeat its criticism of Turkey for refusing to establish normal ties with Greek Cyprus and open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus and says a change of Turkish policy in this regard could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process.

Turkey does not recognize EU member Greek Cyprus, its administration internationally recognized as representing the entire island, and refuses to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus despite repeated EU calls to do so.

“The EU underlines the importance of progress in the normalization of relations between Turkey and all EU member states, including the Republic of Cyprus. In this regard, the EU calls on Turkey to stop blocking the access of member states to international organizations and mechanisms. Furthermore, the EU stresses again all the sovereign rights of EU member states, which include, inter alia, entering into bilateral agreements, and to explore and exploit their natural resources, in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said the document.

Turkey will also present its position on EU-Turkey relations. Turkey is expected to ask the EU to hasten the process of visa liberalization, which was initiated on Thursday in Brussels.

The following is the 19-page document that is due to be presented at the 50th meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council.

50th MEETING OF THE EU-TURKEY ASSOCIATION COUNCIL (Brussels – 22 June 2012 )

POSITION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

The European Union welcomes the holding of the 50th meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council. The EU considers that this meeting provides a timely opportunity to review progress in EU-Turkey relations, following the publication of the Commission's Progress Report in October 2011.

Item 3 Accession Strategy, in particular in the light of the Accession Partnership and of the Commission's 2011 Progress Report

In line with the Council conclusions of 5 December 2011, the EU welcomes Turkey's continued commitment to the negotiation process and the political reform agenda, also reaffirmed by the establishment of the new EU Ministry. Important priorities have been addressed, including the civilian oversight of security forces, the reform of the judiciary, freedom of religion and the observance of international human rights law. At this point in time, out of 35 chapters, 13 have been opened and one provisionally closed. As concerns chapters for which opening benchmarks have been set, the EU invites Turkey to address them accordingly, and to step up its efforts in meeting established conditions.

The EU welcomes the launch of the positive agenda, covering a broad range of areas of common interest with Turkey, and the work that has been undertaken in this context. The EU underlines that the positive agenda should support the negotiation process, in line with the Negotiating Framework and the relevant Council conclusions.

Further significant efforts are required by Turkey to meet opening benchmarks of the negotiation chapters on public procurement, competition, and social policy.

Recalling that negotiations have reached a more demanding stage, the EU notes that Turkey will be able to accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfilment of benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the Negotiating Framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU.

In this context, recalling its conclusions of 5 December 2011, the EU notes with deep regret that Turkey, despite repeated calls, continues refusing to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement towards all Member States. The EU underlines that this could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process. In the absence of progress on this issue, the Council will maintain its measures from 2006, which will have a continuous effect on the overall progress of the negotiations. Furthermore, Turkey has still not made progress towards the necessary normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus. The EU will continue to closely follow and review progress made on all issues covered by the declaration of the European Community and its Member States of 21 September 2005. Progress is now expected without further delay.

The EU recalls that progress in implementing the priorities set out in the Accession Partnership is crucial.

- Political criteria, other requirements of the Negotiating Framework and enhanced political dialogue

Turkey has continued to be active in its wider neighbourhood, and remains an important regional player in the Middle East, the Western Balkans, Afghanistan/Pakistan, the Southern Caucasus, and the Horn of Africa. In line with the principles set out in the Negotiating Framework, the EU continues to encourage Turkey to develop its foreign policy as a complement to and in coordination with the EU, and to progressively align with EU policies and positions. In this regard, the EU remains committed to further reinforcing its existing political dialogue with Turkey on foreign policy issues of mutual interest. Turkey has made remarkable efforts to cope with the growing humanitarian dimension of the Syrian crisis.  The EU welcomes Foreign Minister Davutoğlu’s recent participation in discussion of regional issues in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council in March 2012 and looks forward to further EU/Turkey cooperation on joint projects in countries in transition following the Arab Spring.

The EU welcomes the work launched on implementing the 2010 Constitutional reform package and the new process to reform the constitution, and emphasises that implementation in line with European standards remains key. The EU welcomes Turkey's efforts to ensure the broadest possible consultation in this work, involving all political parties and civil society.

The EU encourages Turkey to re-launch the democratic opening to address in particular the Kurdish issue. The constitutional reform provides a useful framework in that respect.

The EU calls on Turkey to enhance its efforts to implement all the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. The EU recalls in particular that Turkey will need to fully implement the decision of the European Court of Human Rights of 14 September 2010, Dink v. Turkey, both in terms of legislative changes on freedom of expression and widening of the investigation.  The EU recalls that full execution of the judgement is crucial for Turkey in order to fight impunity, and underline that all involved need to be held accountable before the law.

Building on progress made, the EU invites Turkey to further improve the observance of fundamental rights and freedoms in law and in practice, in particular in the area of freedom of expression. The restrictions in practice on the freedom of the media, the large number of legal cases launched against, and arrests of, writers, journalists, academics and human rights defenders, and frequent website bans all raise serious concerns that need to be addressed. Further efforts towards fully meeting the Copenhagen criteria are also required, inter alia, as regards freedom of religion, property rights, trade union rights, rights of persons belonging to minorities, women's and children’s rights, anti-discrimination and gender equality, and the fight against torture and ill-treatment. The recent adoption of legislation amending the Law of foundations that aims at facilitation of recovery of confiscated property of non-Muslim communities is an important and welcome step, provided it is implemented effectively.

As regards judicial reform, the EU highlights the utmost importance of an impartial, independent, and effective judiciary for strengthening the rule of law and properly implementing the acquis. In this respect, and pursuant to the 2010 constitutional reform, the EU welcomes the adoption of legislation on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and on the Constitutional Court as a step towards strengthening the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. The EU invites the Turkish authorities and all stakeholders involved to use their best endeavours and continue to implement the constitutional amendments in line with European standards. In particular, the EU invites all stakeholders to use the opportunity of the upcoming drafting of a civilian Constitution to address, in consensus and dialogue, all remaining issues on the independence, impartiality, efficiency and criminal justice system in Turkey. Issues related to the latter have become extremely important and need to be addressed with urgency. Efforts should be stepped up to establish a system of intermediate courts of appeal. There is also a need to continue and enhance training for judges and prosecutors in the application of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights (ECHR) and the case-law of the ECtHR also through a strengthened judicial academy.

The EU underlines the importance of a continued reform of the public administration. The EU looks forward to the adoption of a law on the Ombudsman based on European standards and invites Turkey to continue its constructive dialogue with the European Ombudsman.

As regards civil-military relations, the EU welcomes the good progress on consolidating the principle of civilian oversight of security forces. A Supreme Military Council was established to provide for a greater civilian oversight of the armed forces. Civilian oversight of military expenditure was tightened and a revised National Security Plan adopted. In addition, Supreme Military Council decisions were opened to civilian judicial review. However, the EU encourages the Turkish authorities to carry the reform process further, with regard to the composition of the Supreme Military Council, military justice system, and the Personnel Law of the Turkish Armed Forces.

The EU welcomes the adoption of the anti-corruption strategy. However, corruption remains widespread and the strategy needs to be implemented swiftly and effectively and Turkey needs to develop a track record of investigations, indictments, and convictions.

The EU welcomes progress on the observance of international human rights law, and in particular the ratification by Turkey of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The EU welcomes the continued downward trend seen in recent years in both the incidence and the severity of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials, as highlighted by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) recently. The EU notes also that Turkey has abided by the majority of relevant rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Turkey needs to ensure its zero tolerance policy on torture and ill treatment and implement all judgments of the ECtHR without delay. The EU calls on Turkey to bring legislation on human rights' institutions further in line with UN principles.

As concerns freedom of expression, the EU stresses that freedom of the press is a fundamental value and that further legal amendments are key in order to ensure freedom of expression in line with the European Convention of Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. The EU underlines that, in particular, the provisions in the Turkish Criminal Code, the Anti-Terror Law and the Code of Criminal Procedures which lead to restrictions on freedom of expression need to be urgently changed. The EU continues to be deeply concerned over continued arrests of journalists and the frequent closure of Web sites.

As regards freedom of religion, the EU welcomes positive developments, as for instance the adoption of legislation amending the Law of foundations, and invites Turkey to implement it effectively. The EU encourages Turkey to take further steps in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights; this includes the adoption of legislation, as necessary, in order to guarantee that all non-Muslim religious communities, as well as the Alevi community, can function without undue constraints. The EU calls on Turkey to guarantee their rights to legal personality, to the election of their religious leaders and to the training of their clergy; in this regard, Turkey needs to follow up on positive statements made to date on the re-opening of the Halki Seminary. The EU underlines that the Ecumenical Patriarchate should be free to use the ecclesiastical title "Ecumenical". The EU continues to be concerned about the continued court cases regarding land ownership against the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel monastery.

As regards persons belonging to minorities, the EU recalls that full respect for, and protection of, language, culture and fundamental rights, in accordance with European standards, has yet to be fully achieved and that Turkey needs to make further efforts to enhance tolerance and promote inclusiveness.

The EU notes that problems continue to be reportedly encountered by Greek nationals in inheriting and registering property, in particular as regards, inter alia, the application by the Turkish authorities of the amended Land Registry Law together with the implementation of relevant ECtHR judgements.

As regards women's rights the legal framework guaranteeing women’s rights and gender equality has been strengthened through the constitutional amendment permitting the adoption of positive discrimination measures for women and the adoption of legislation addressing violence against women. However, the EU reiterates that ensuring women's rights and gender equality in practice and providing the relevant political climate for this remain key challenges for Turkey. Notably, sustained further efforts are needed to turn this legal framework into political, social and economic reality. Honour killings, early and forced marriages and domestic violence against women remain serious problems. The EU invites Turkey to implement legislation consistently across the country. Further training and awareness-raising on women’s rights and gender equality are needed, as well as measures to increase the low female labour force participation.

As concerns children's rights the EU welcomes the amendment to the anti-terror law ensuring that children accused of committing terror-related crimes are tried by juvenile courts and the ratification by the Parliament of the Council of Europe Convention against Sexual Exploitation of Children.

As regards trade union rights, the EU invites Turkey to further amend its legislation in line with ILO and EU standards, following the constitutional amendments in 2010. Progress on this issue is key for the opening of the negotiating chapter on social policy and employment, in particular as regards the rights to organise, to bargain collectively, and to strike, both for the private and public sectors.

The EU calls on Turkey to further address the situation of the Roma, notably by initiating a comprehensive inclusion strategy, as Roma still frequently face problems of access to services, health, education and employment, as well as discriminatory treatment.

As concerns the East and the Southeast, the EU regrets that the 2009 democratic opening, aimed at addressing the Kurdish issue in particular, was not followed through. The EU calls on Turkey to follow-up recent announcements made by the government to implement further measures in the context of the democratic opening. The EU notes recent discussions between Prime Minister Erdoğan and Leader of the CHP, Kemal Kiliçdaroğlu, looking for opportunities to make progress on the Kurdish issue. The detention of elected politicians and human rights defenders raises concerns. The truth about extra-judicial killings and torture in the Southeast in the 1980s and 1990s has yet to be established following the due process of law. Landmines and the village guard system remain causes for concern.

The EU condemns all terrorist attacks and violence in Turkish territory in the strongest terms, and expresses its solidarity with the people of Turkey. The EU resolutely supports Turkey in its fight against terrorism and in its efforts to protect its population, which must be conducted with due regard for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular as regards freedom of expression and freedom of association. In this context the EU underlines the need for continued judicial reforms, in particular regarding the anti-terror law and the criminal code and the restrictive interpretation of both laws by the courts. The fight against terrorism must not provide a pretext to constrain freedom of expression or to impair the independence of the media.

In line with the Negotiating Framework and previous European Council and Council conclusions, the EU underlines that Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the Union expresses serious concern and urges the avoidance of any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions, which could damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The EU welcomes that the co-operation initiatives between Greece and Turkey to improve bilateral relations are continuing.

As emphasised by the Negotiating Framework, the EU also expects Turkey to actively support the ongoing negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded. Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to such a comprehensive settlement is crucial.

The EU underlines the importance of progress in the normalisation of relations between Turkey and all EU Member States, including the Republic of Cyprus. In this regard, the EU calls on Turkey to stop blocking the accession of Member States to international organisations and mechanisms. Furthermore, the EU stresses again all the sovereign rights of EU Member States, which include, inter alia, entering into bilateral agreements, and to explore and exploit their natural resources, in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The EU regrets Turkey’s statements to freeze its relations with the EU Presidency during the second half of 2012, and underlines that the Presidency of the Council of the EU is provided for in the Treaty on the European Union. Recalling the European Council conclusions of 9 December, with regard to Turkish statements and threats, the EU expresses serious concern and calls for full respect of the role of the Presidency of the Council, which is a fundamental institutional feature of the EU provided for in the Treaty.

- Economic criteria

Turkey is an open, largely market-driven economy with broadly adequate public financial management and a well-regulated financial sector. Although Turkey suffered a deep recession in 2008-09, the financial system stress and the volatility of interest- and exchange-rates were limited.

Turkey's subsequent recovery and economic growth performance in 2010 was impressive. Real GDP grew by 9.2% in 2010 and by 8.5% in 2011. However, due to the strong economic growth - on the back of robust domestic demand and higher imports in combination with higher commodity prices - the current account deficit has increased dramatically and inflationary pressures intensified. At the same time, the quality of the external financing has deteriorated.

Under the current circumstances, the main challenge for Turkey is how to design and implement a more balanced monetary and fiscal policy mix, which will focus on preserving macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth, maintaining price stability and sound public finances, improving competitiveness and enhancing the labour market performance. Turkey will also need to address the challenges of ensuring an inclusive socio-economic development and to develop further its human capital through quality education and higher labour force participation, notably by women.

Acquis

Turkey continued improving its ability to take on the obligations of membership. The EU warmly welcomes that progress was made in a number of areas. As regards the overall level of alignment and administrative capacity, much remains to be done. A number of obligations by Turkey under its Customs Union with the EU remain unfulfilled.

Taking into account, in particular, the meetings of the Customs Union Joint Committee of April 2011 and of November as well as the 120th EU-Turkey Association Committee of April 2012, the EU has observations and comments on the following chapters.

In the field of free movement of goods, alignment is generally quite advanced. The EU is looking forward to the accession of Turkey in the near future to the Common Transit Convention and the Convention on the simplification of formalities in trade of goods.  The EU recalls that in order for Turkey to join the Conventions, the necessary IT conformance tests need to be completed and then the instrument of accession can be lodged. However, some key issues, such as the introduction of the mutual recognition principle into Turkish legislation are yet to be solved. Moreover, trade is hampered by technical barriers related to conformity assessment and standardisation. In addition, Turkey's foreign trade regime creates technical barriers in numerous industrial sectors. For example, in 2010 Turkey introduced legislation on pharmaceutical products which restricts significantly the import of new EU medicinal products into the Turkish market and may also negatively affect other regulatory aspects linked to the marketing of pharmaceutical products.

As regards free movement of capital, Turkey has made some progress on capital movements and payments. However, Turkey has made limited progress to align with the EU and revised FATF standards in the fight against money laundering. Some liberalisation has taken place on foreign ownership in radio and television broadcasting as well as in electricity markets, but restrictions remain in several other areas. There are still obstacles to acquisition of real estate by foreign natural and legal persons. The EU invites Turkey to liberalise gradually the acquisition of real estate by foreigners in line with the acquis, to take all necessary measures in order to address efficiently disputes over property purchase and to continue to make progress on enforcement of its anti-money laundering and terrorist financing framework, in particular by strengthening its administrative capacity in order to assure the effective implementation of all preventive measures.

With regard to intellectual property law, alignment is well advanced. Implementation and enforcement of the acquis in this chapter need substantial strengthening. Turkey remains one of the countries where, despite advanced legislative alignment, intellectual property rights protection and enforcement are most problematic. Further work remains to be done on deterrents to IPR infringement. In 2011 the EU and Turkey established an IPR working group. The working group met twice and discussed specific issues in an effort to strengthen the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in Turkey. The EU encourages this working group to also address protection of products with geographical indications.

The EU welcomes the advanced alignment in the field of competition as regards anti-trust. As regards state aid, the EU regrets that Turkey has interrupted its alignment with commitments under the Customs Union. In this context, the EU requests from Turkey detailed information on the envisaged investment incentive scheme.

In the fields of agriculture and rural development, veterinary and phytosanitary issues, and fisheries, the EU welcomes steps to develop administrative structures necessary to implement these policy areas. The EU also welcomes progress made as regards the IPARD programme as well as progress on legislative alignment in food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy. However, alignment remains uneven, and further efforts are needed, inter alia in progressive alignment with the Common Agricultural Policy and in control of animal diseases. Turkey is strongly urged to remove remaining unjustified technical barriers to trade in beef meat, live bovine animals, and derivate products in line with its obligations under the bilateral agreement for agricultural products. Furthermore, Turkey is invited to pursue its efforts to align with the acquis in the field of fisheries with a particular emphasis on market policy, structural action, state aid, resource and fleet management, inspection and control and to strengthen institutional capacity for its implementation.

In transport policy, the EU encourages Turkey to continue efforts in order to meet EU technical requirements on safety security and environmental protection. Regarding aviation, the EU appreciates the increased contacts in the field of air transport with Turkey and the conclusion of the negotiations of the 'horizontal aviation agreement'. The EU hopes that the Turkish internal approval procedures can be finished soon. The EU welcomes the dialogue with Turkey in order to create a roadmap to enhance the aviation relations between both parties, integrate Turkey into the Single European Sky and solve all pending issues in this area, including aspects related to civil-military coordination.

Nevertheless, the EU reiterates the urgent need to address the safety risk in the South-East Mediterranean region. The absence of communication between air control centres in Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus is seriously compromising air safety. In this context, an operational solution in line with applicable international law, including the Chicago Convention, should be found urgently.

The Commission welcomes the future extension of this dialogue to other modes of transport in order to strengthen EU-Turkey relations in the transport sector and to contribute to the resolution of pending issues.

With regard to energy, the EU notes the progress on the development of an enhanced energy cooperation. At a high-level meeting Turkey-EU Commission on 14 June, five areas for cooperation were agreed. The EU looks forward to the swift development of concrete activities in order to enhance energy relations, in the framework of the positive agenda.

The EU Delegation recalls the Council Conclusions of 5 December 2011 regarding all sovereign rights of EU Member States, which include, inter alia, entering into bilateral agreements, and to explore and exploit their natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The EU stresses the constructive role Turkey can play in contributing to Europe's energy security (including its own) and calls on Turkey to fully support the projects on the Southern gas corridor. The pipeline system built to transport gas across Turkey needs to be governed by a legal and regulatory regime under international law. It should also be scalable, i.e. its transit capacity should grow as demand develops and additional supply becomes available. The EU recalls that in the light of last year's events in Japan, nuclear safety is a key priority. The EU invites Turkey to prioritise the development of an adequate framework for nuclear safety (legislation and administrative capacity) inter alia by acceding to the Joint Convention on the Safety of spent fuel management and radio-active waste management as soon as possible, with a view to ensure the implementation of the highest standards for nuclear safety, in accordance with the European Council Conclusions of 25 March 2011. The EU welcomes progress in the area of electricity. The EU considers that its internal market legislation would provide a role model for Turkey's energy sector development, and its integration with the EU market. The EU also welcomes the legislative developments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, and encourages Turkey to prioritise the implementation of its objectives, in order to increase its own security of supply and to mirror the EU's very ambitious objectives in these areas. This will also support progress towards the shared goal of the EU and Turkey to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.

On taxation, Turkey is encouraged to step up its efforts to address the scope and rates of VAT, and the structure and rates of excise duties. The EU welcomes the settlement of the valuation disputes between Turkey and the importers of spirit drinks in relation to the valuation of their goods for excise purposes. The EU also invites Turkey to re-align without delay its excise tax rates in accordance with its commitments undertaken in the action plan presented for the opening of the Taxation chapter. Abolition of discriminatory practices in taxation is a key element for making further progress on this chapter.

Concerning social policy and employment, the EU encourages Turkey to undertake further efforts to ensure full trade union rights for both the public and private sector in line with EU standards and the relevant ILO Conventions. The EU welcomes the substantial increase of active labour market policy. It encourages Turkey to promote social dialogue and labour market reforms, notably to address the high prevalence of undeclared work and the low female labour force participation. The EU calls on Turkey to adopt legislation protecting workers and socially vulnerable people including women, children, elderly and disabled people, on anti-discrimination, including sexual orientation, and to implement recently adopted legislation preventing and combating violence against women.

Concerning justice, freedom and security, Turkey continued making uneven progress. Sustained efforts are required in areas such as visa policy, judicial cooperation in criminal and civil matters, asylum, migration, external borders and fight against trafficking in human beings. The EU looks forward to the swift conclusion of an EU-Turkey readmission agreement and effective implementation after its entry into force and stresses that the adequate implementation of already existing bilateral readmission agreements remains a priority. The EU welcomes the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding with Frontex. The EU reminds Turkey that a solid and comprehensive personal data protection system, in terms of legislation and administrative capacity as well as effective application, is of key importance. The EU emphasises the importance of the effective implementation of the strategy against organised crime, and measures to tackle money laundering.

In the field of environment, the EU welcomes progress in a number of areas, including waste management. The EU encourages Turkey to pay due attention to implementation of the Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and on public access to environmental information; steps need to be undertaken for the transposition of provisions concerning trans-boundary aspects. The EU invites Turkey to take on a more ambitious climate policy, both domestically and internationally, as part of broader multilateral efforts to enhance global greenhouse gas emissions mitigation efforts.  The EU supports Turkey’s ambition to implement a carbon market mechanism along the lines of the EU’s Emissions Trading System. The EU will continue to support Turkey’s efforts through the World Bank Partnership for Market Readiness. The EU also stresses the need to pay increased attention to the implementation of the EU requirements as regards the construction of new water infrastructure in Turkey. The EU encourages Turkey to continue efforts in the field of water quality, including waste water, and, industrial pollution control, nature protection, GMOs and international agreements such as the Aarhus and Espoo conventions. Finally, the EU asks Turkey to extend its active support to EU accession to the Bucharest Convention.

As regards the chapter Customs Union, Turkey has reached a high level of alignment thanks to the existence of the EU-Turkey Customs Union.  However, alignment is not complete with regard to free trade zones, intellectual property rights and customs duty relief. Counterfeit goods remain a cause of concern. Turkey's duty free shops at arrival points are not in line with the acquis. The EU remains committed to engaging constructively with Turkey to maximise the potential of the Customs Union and to resolve outstanding disputes, including the possible establishment of a dispute settlement mechanism.  The EU also notes Turkey’s interest in closer consultation on negotiations for Free Trade Agreements with third countries and remains  ready to explore appropriate solutions.

Item 4 State of relations under the Association Agreement and the Customs Union

With regard to the Customs Union there remains a number of unfulfilled commitments by Turkey. Turkey needs to fully implement Decision 1/95. The import regime introduced by Turkey on 1 January 2009 and revised in January 2010 and in January 2011, its non-automatic license regime for old, second-hand and renovated goods as well as actions undertaken by Turkey in the area of pharmaceuticals do not comply with the Customs Union. Furthermore, Turkey is invited to withdraw the burdensome import procedures and to align its duty-free quota system for processed agricultural products which do not comply with the Customs Union. This is particularly serious considering that most of these commitments are long overdue. Turkey is encouraged to consult the Commission before it undertakes any new measure in the area covered by the Customs Union, in accordance with the provisions of Decision 1/95.

As regards state aid, the EU welcomes that Turkey has taken first steps to meet its commitments under the Customs Union and the Free Trade Agreement on ECSC products. These commitments include the obligation of Turkey to align its legislation with the EU state aid rules, such as adopting secondary legislation under the 2010 state aid law, adapt all existing aid schemes to the rules following from the Customs Union and inform the EU of all existing and planned state aid schemes with relevance under the Customs Union.

With regard to free movement of goods, there are a number of outstanding commitments under the Customs Union. This relates in particular to the Turkish import regime which requires import permits for old, second-hand and renovated goods. In addition, Turkey's foreign trade regime creates technical barriers on numerous industrial sectors. The requirement of control certificates for alcoholic beverages was abolished and since January 2012 a prior notification system has been in place instead. Market access for EU products in certain sectors, including alcoholic beverages and textiles, is made difficult through non-tariff barriers and needs to be addressed. Turkey introduced and maintains a restrictive, non-automatic export-licensing regime for copper scrap, aluminium and paper. The Union urges Turkey to remove remaining import and export licences requirements for goods which are in breach of Turkey's commitments under the Customs Union.

As regards pharmaceuticals, the EU urges Turkey to suspend the new Turkish requirements on Good Manufacturing Practices which restrict significantly imports of new pharmaceutical products and may also negatively affect other regulatory aspects linked to the marketing of pharmaceutical products. Finally, the Union invites Turkey to notify in advance any relevant amendment in its legislation, in accordance with its obligations under the Customs Union.

Concerning taxation, Turkey should ensure that its taxation system does not put imported products at a disadvantage compared to domestic products. In this respect, the non- compliance of Turkey with its commitments on excise tax rates undertaken in the context of the opening of the Taxation chapter has widened the discrimination of EU beverages in the Turkish market, which is incompatible with the Customs Union.

With regard to intellectual property law, alignment is well advanced. Implementation and enforcement of the acquis in this chapter need substantial strengthening. Turkey remains one of the countries where, despite advanced legislative alignment, intellectual property rights protection and enforcement is most problematic. Further work remains to be done on deterrents to IPR infringement. The EU looks forward to Turkey's constructive engagement, particularly regarding issues of counterfeiting and piracy.

With regard to Commercial Policy, the extension of safeguard measures and the initiation of new safeguard measures investigations by Turkey in 2011 and 2012 is a matter of serious concern. Safeguard measures affect EU exports to Turkey even when the EU products are not the cause of the problem. In line with the Customs Union, Turkey is invited to use those means which least disturb the trade between the EU and Turkey.

In relation to Decision No. 1/98 of the EC-Turkey Association Council on trade with agricultural products, Turkey partially lifted its long-standing ban on imports of beef meat and live bovine animals. However, the EU considers that a number of import restrictions are still in place, which continue to constitute a violation of our bilateral agreement and hampers further development of our bilateral agricultural trade relations. The EU strongly urges Turkey to further change its import requirements and fully lift the restrictions on trade in bovine products. It also stresses that in the coming period Turkish authorities must open all tariff quotas concessions agreed with the EU on a normal yearly basis and that the procedures should be transparent and timely, thereby allowing for a sound implementation of the bilateral trade agreement. In this context, the EU seeks clarifications on the future plans of the Turkish authorities to fully lift the beef ban.

The EU welcomes the progress accomplished under IPA Component I in 2011 and early 2012, especially the accreditation process for Regional Competitiveness and Human Resources Development programmes that was finalised recently. The EU stresses the importance of finalising the accreditation processes for the Transport Operational Programme in the coming months.

The EU welcomes the establishment of sectoral working groups and the preparation of sectoral alignment strategies. However, further steps towards a sector approach have to be taken in relation to the development of sector identification fiches as concerns 2013 programming. The EU underlines the importance of moving towards a more integrated approach in the fields of judiciary, border and migration managements, agriculture and energy.

Regarding implementation, progress concerning the management and control system can be registered and significant efforts were made to improve the management of funds in the course of 2011. However, further efforts need to be made by the Turkish authorities to address the existing gaps and to create adequate capacity to absorb funds in a speedy manner under all IPA Components.

Contracting performance across open IPA component I programmes (IPA 2009 and 2010) is at this stage insufficient; moreover, tenders need to start being launched in the months to come under IPA 2011.  A challenging year lies ahead when it comes to implementation of IPA in Turkey, to avoid further delays and the risk of loss of funds in 2012.  In order to minimize the delays in tendering procedures and payments the EU encourages Turkey to further strengthen the capacities of the Turkish authorities in the course of 2012.

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