Thursday, 6 October 2005
Department of Foreign Affairs
I propose to take Questions Nos. 61, 102 and 114 together.
On Monday last, 3 October, the General Affairs and External Relations Council approved a framework for negotiations with Turkey on its accession to the EU, enabling the accession negotiations to open later that night. I very much welcome this development.
Turkey has been a candidate for membership of the EU since the Helsinki European Council in December 1999, which agreed that it was destined to join the Union on the basis of the same criteria applied to the other candidate states. The European Council in Brussels on 16-17 December 2004, decided, on the basis of the Commission's report and recommendation, that Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria to enable the opening of accession negotiations. The Council therefore requested the Commission to begin work on a proposal for a negotiating framework and to present it to the Council, with a view to the opening of the accession negotiations on 3 October.
The shared objective of the negotiations is accession. It will be an open-ended process, the outcome of which cannot be guaranteed in advance. The negotiations will be based on Turkey's own merits and the pace will depend on the country's progress in meeting requirements for membership. Given the financial consequences of Turkish accession, the framework makes clear that negotiations can only be concluded after the establishment of the financial framework for the period from 2014, together with possible consequential financial reforms. Throughout the negotiations, the Union will expect Turkey to sustain the process of reform which it has already begun, and to work towards further improvements, including in respect of the principles of liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Parallel to the negotiations, the Union will also engage with Turkey in an intensive political and civil society dialogue with the aim of enhancing mutual understanding. The negotiating process will undoubtedly be lengthy and challenging. The Government, with our partners in the Union, looks forward to engaging positively with Turkey on the issues involved.