EU opening statement for the accession conference with Turkey
Full text of the British Presidency statement by Jack Straw
Nicosia, Oct 4 (CNA) --
1. On behalf of the EU Member States, I am delighted to welcome here today the distinguished representatives of Turkey to the Intergovernmental Conference opening the accession negotiations with your country.
2. There are already well established, close ties between your country and the Union. We first concluded contractual relations in 1963, when we signed our Association Agreement, known as the Ankara Agreement. In 1995, we moved to the final stage of the Customs Union, and in 1999 the Helsinki European Council declared Turkey a candidate State. These represented important qualitative steps, both in political and economic terms. Today is another important step in the evolution of this relationship.
The Association Agreement will continue to provide the framework for our relations during the pre-accession period. By making progress toward extending the freedoms on which the Community is based, notably by liberalising trade between you and the Community, and by promoting economic and financial cooperation between us, it remains a key element of our ever-closer relations.
3. Since Turkey applied for membership in April 1987, successive decisions of the European Council have provided the strategy and the means to prepare the European perspective of your country. This includes an Accession Partnership which is supported by substantial prea€'accession financial assistance.
4. We recall the European Council conclusions of 16/17 December 2004. We note that the six pieces of legislation identified by the Commission and requested by the European Council have entered into force and we expect that they will be fully implemented in accordance with the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We also acknowledge the signature of the Protocol regarding the adaptation of the Ankara Agreement. The position of the European Community and its Member States was set out in their Declaration of 21 September 2005, in response to the Declaration by Turkey of 29 July 2005.
The European Council of 16/17 December 2004 requested the Council to agree on a framework for our negotiations. The negotiating framework has been agreed by the Council on the basis of a proposal by the Commission. It takes account of the experience of the fifth enlargement process, and of the evolving acquis and has been prepared according to own merits and the specific situation and characteristics of Turkey. It indicates clearly the specific requirements of the process we are launching today.
The European Council also agreed that parallel to accession negotiations, the Union will engage with every candidate State in an intensive political and cultural dialogue involving civil society. This dialogue will prove valuable in improving mutual understanding and encouraging a debate on both sides on all aspects of our relationship.
5. The negotiations which we launch today are based on Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. Let me recall that our negotiations are taking place in an Intergovernmental Conference with the participation of all Member States, as well as your country. As in all IGCs, decisions will be taken on the basis of unanimity. It will be up to the Member States to decide in due course whether conditions are right for the conclusion of the negotiations.
6. We recall the need for Turkey to continue to work towards full and effective implementation of the pre-accession strategy and reforms, in particular as regards strengthening the independence and functioning of the judiciary, the exercise of fundamental freedoms (association, expression and religion), cultural rights, the further alignment of civil-military relations with European practice and the situation in the Southeast of the country. This should ensure the irreversibility of the political reform process. In conformity with Turkey's commitment to peace and stability, and to the development of good neighbourly relations, including solutions to pending bilateral issues, Turkey should actively promote regional cooperation. This should contribute to regional stability.
7. Since the end of 1998, the Commission has made Regular Reports to the Council, reviewing your progress in the light of the Copenhagen criteria, in particular the rate at which you are adopting and implementing the acquis. Implementation of the Accession Partnership and progress in adopting the acquis are examined in the Association Agreement bodies. As with any other candidate country, the monitoring of your commitments will play a key role in informing the Council's decisions on the conduct of negotiations with you.
8. The timely and effective implementation of the acquis as well as the need to bring your administrative and judicial capacity up to the necessary level in order to achieve this are prerequisites for membership. Therefore, convergence with the acquis which you have already begun should now be intensified. You will also need to bear in mind developments in the acquis since the date of the opening of negotiations. The acquis includes the objectives and principles on which the Union is founded, as set out in the Treaty on European Union. It is a community of values, which every member must fully share.
9. The process will be rigorous and challenging. But we are confident in your determination and commitment and will support you in your efforts. We are pleased to engage with you today in this process.