France may approve unblocking chapters for Turkey's EU bid
EU heavyweight France, currently blocking five chapters in the EU acquis communautaire for Turkey, has given positive signals in its recent messages to the EU community that it will lift its block on some chapters in an effort to revitalize stagnant Turkey-EU ties, Today's Zaman reported.
No chapter has been opened for Turkey in two-and-a-half years, exemplifying the listlessness of Turkey-EU relations. In recent talks with Irish officials, France has indicated that preparations could be started to open two chapters that it is blocking.
Turkish officials were informed of these developments by Irish officials during a visit to Dublin. EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış was in Dublin last week for talks as Ireland prepares to take over the EU's rotating presidency on Jan. 1 from the current president, Greek Cyprus. Turkey froze what were already stagnant relations with the EU in the second half of 2012, when the Greek Cypriot administration assumed the presidency.
Irish officials spoke of their recent talks with French representatives, but added that France's recent messages are not a full guarantee that they will remove their blocks.
According to the information provided by Turkish officials, the two chapters France might open during the Irish presidency would be Chapter 17, titled "Economic and Monetary Policy," and Chapter 22, "Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments."
Turkish officials told Today's Zaman that the conditions required to open Chapter 17 have already been fulfilled by Turkey and that Chapter 22 could also be opened if there is the political will to do so during the Irish presidency. There are no requirements to meet to open Chapter 22.
'At least one chapter will be opened'
Turkish officials have also expressed hope on improving ties once the Irish presidency begins.
"At least one chapter will be opened. We will see which members, France or Greek Cyprus, will lift their blocks," an official told Today's Zaman.
During their recent visit to Dublin, the delegation from the Ministry of EU Affairs stressed the current inactivity in bilateral relations with the EU. Irish officials have claimed that Ireland is very well positioned to work with Turkey and to put some significant weight behind furthering Turkey-EU relations by seeing that at least one chapter is opened.
Currently, France and Greek Cyprus are blocking the opening of some chapters in the acquis. The completion of some other chapters has also been blocked by the EU Council due to disputes over Cyprus.
The chapters that Ankara gives greatest importance are Chapter 15, dealing with energy, and Chapter 26, related to education and culture, which were blocked by the Greek Cypriot administration. Greek Cyprus is also blocking four other chapters.
The European Commission and the European Parliament, two of the EU's institutions, have already emphasized in their reports on Turkey that the energy chapter has to be opened.
Turkey opened accession talks with the EU in 2005, but progress has been slow since then due to the Cyprus dispute as well as opposition to Turkey's membership by some member countries, including France and Germany. Of the 35 chapters that must be successfully negotiated by any candidate country as a condition for membership, only 13 have been opened by Turkey; 17 have been blocked and four have not yet been opened -- only one is provisionally closed, on science and research. No chapters have been opened since the end of the Spanish presidency in June 2010.
With its close trade and investment links with the EU, Turkey makes a valuable contribution to Europe's competitiveness.