The European Union is an economic and political union made up of 28 European countries. The aim of the EU is to ensure that goods, service, people, and capital move freely within the internal market which has been developed through standardizing of systems of law that apply to member states. Apart from the member states, the EU also has partners that work closely with it. One of the partners in Turkey. The relations between Turkey and the EU was established in 1959 and formalized in 1963 following the Ankara Agreement. The two are members of the EU-Turkey Customs Union and share land border through Greece and Bulgaria which are all members of the EU. In 1987, Turkey applied to join the EU but the negotiations stalled in 2016.
History of the EU-Turkey Relations
In 1959, Turkey became one of the first states to seek the establishment of relations with the then European Economic Community. After a period of negotiations, the cooperation was realized in 1963 in a framework known as the Ankara Agreement. The association agreement was signed on September 12, 1963. One of the elements of the plan was the establishment of a “Customs Union” which would enable Turkey to freely trade with any EEC member state without any restriction. After several years of sustained relations and collaboration between Turkey and the EU, the former applied to accede to the EU in 1987.
Negotiations for Accession
One of the most powerful policy tools for the EU is enlargement. However, the process of admitting new members to the Union is complex but managed in a way that helps the transformation of the nations involved and promotes peace, stability, democracy, prosperity, human rights, and the rule across the continent. In 2005, the EU opened accession negotiation with Croatia and Turkey. The process involves the adoption and implementation of the EU laws commonly known as “acquis,” a 130,000-page document containing rules and regulations that the member states must adhere to. As a candidate, Turkey is expected to adjust parts of its national laws in line with EU laws. The changes in legislation will likely affect all the sectors of the country and all section of the population. While Croatia was cleared to join the Union in 2013, the European Parliament voted to suspend Turkey’s accession negotiation on November 24, 2016, over rule of law and human rights. On June 26, 2018, the General Affairs Council concluded that Turkey was moving further away from the EU. The accession negotiations were effectively put on hold.
Issues that Affected the Accession Negotiations
Although the EU previously had issues against Turkey, the relations deteriorated after the Turkish purge of 2016-2017, including media freedom suppression and arrest of journalists. The rise in the number persecuted political dissenters has created political tension between Turkey and the EU in both ways. While the EU has criticized the country for legislation to limit the freedom of speech, Turkish President, Recep Erdogan, has accused the EU member states of accommodating Turkish residents who have been prosecuted for their political opinion.