Turkey and EU relaunch membership talks

Ankara applied to join the European Union in 1987 with accession talks finally beginning in 2005. Since then, the EU has opened 15 chapters out of a total 35 required to join. But with talks having slowed down over the past few years and the growing interdependent needs of both regions, talks over Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union have been revived.

On 14 December 2015, EU and Turkish ministers met in Brussels for an intergovernmental conference that was followed by the opening of further talks on Ankara’s long-standing efforts to join the 28-member bloc. During the talks, European Union foreign ministers revived Turkey’s efforts to join the bloc by agreeing to open talks on the EU’s financial rules.

The opening of chapter 17, one of 35 in the EU’s membership talks aimed at bringing Turkey in line with the EU’s economic and monetary policy, marks not only the first formal discussion since 2013, but also what many see as a fresh start for EU-Turkey ties.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Mehmet Şimşek, who was in Brussels for the opening of the new accession chapter, said he expected quick progress on bringing Ankara in line with the EU’s economic and monetary policy, and stated that “Turkey does not have major shortcomings regarding this chapter”.

Simsek is sure that Turkey is will do whatever it takes to become a full EU member and claims that his government is “committed to solidifying the central bank independency”. He feels that the quality of institutions is critical to long-term prosperity and that Turkey is dedicated to improving the quality of its institutions.

Although the process of the talks was accelerated after the EU’s realisation that it needs Turkey as strategic partner in a number of international areas such as migration, terrorism, energy and trade, the opening of the chapter is also important for Turkish investment and prosperity, and could also be an opportunity for Turkey and the EU to deepen ties and their levels of integration.

Since the success of the opening of the 17th chapter in the European Union’s chapters of the acquis, Turkey has revealed its aims open more chapters in its accession process to the European Union, with the 23rd on Judiciary and fundamental right, and the 24th on justice, freedom and security holding the greatest levels of importance.

Turkey also aims to open three more chapters of the remaining 20 chapters of the agreement on Turkey’s accession to the European Union, including chapter 15 on energy, chapter 26 on education and culture, and chapter 31 on foreign security and defence policy.

As relations between the EU and Turkey gain new paradigms, it has also been agreed that talks about updating Turkey’s customs union will begin next year. Turkey aims to extend its customs union with the European Union to cover services, agricultural goods and public procurement.

Volkan Bozkir, a Turkish diplomat and politician stated that Turkey has been the only non-EU country that has been a member of the customs union and that the country has a strong economy, which can export around 15,000 items to the EU – highlighting benefits of the revival of membership talk.