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back to index backEUROtalk April,  2007

Snubbed in EU's 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Turkey Prepares Seven-Year Road Map for EU Negotiations

A draft policy programme for 2007-2013 will see a sweeping reform of the regulatory environment and plans for closer European Union (EU) integration, with the hopes for 2014 membership implicit.

Global Insight Perspective
- The government has drafted a seven-year road map outlining the legislative agenda for harmonisation with European Union (EU) norms and has tacitly set out 2014 as its target accession date.
- Consultations with business, industrial and civil groups is to follow before the roadmap is finally adopted with the hope of closer EU integration, but the government has made it clear that reforms will progress regardless of the state of negotiations with the EU.
- The policy programme, which is expected to come under the remit of a re-elected Justice and Development (AK) party government, indicates Turkey will remain on a sound regulatory path that will liberalise sectors and improve the business environment, regardless of the end result of the EU project. Chief negotiator Ali Babacan has spoken of his hopes for a 2014 entry date, but has also called for civil society to back this up, claiming earlier this month that the EU was not ready to hear it from government sources.
The government has launched a consultation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) over its proposed "road map" of policy developments over the coming seven years, with the hope that it will inspire closer links to the European Union (EU) and speed up the process of membership negotiations and integration. The document comes at a time when the government has expressed distress that the current German presidency of the EU has snubbed any Turkish input into the 50th anniversary of the founding treaty of Rome—the EU’s birthday—now being celebrated.

The road map has chosen the same timeline as the current EU financial perspective, the bloc's main budgetary tool. It hopes that by the time the next financial perspectives are negotiated for the 2014-2021 period, feelings concerning Turkish membership will have warmed. The draft document is a sweeping plan to harmonise Turkish practice with EU norms, especially in the fields of free movement of labour and capital and through major industrial sectors such as postal, energy, water and transportation services. The document includes policy developments and concrete measures that will be taken over the coming years. According to Turkish Daily News, it includes:

Business and economics:

- Easing measures to obtain work permits for foreigners by 2008.
- Reform of the social security system, which has been delayed from its promised date of passage and will now be submitted to parliament after the November 2007 parliamentary elections, so it is likely to be implemented in mid-2008. The government this week began another review with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Turkey's standby loan and social security reform is a condition of the package. The review is expected to be concluded in May, according to Economy Minister Ali Babacan.
- Passage of the insurance law and the removal of obstacles to free movement of capital.
- Improving conditions for civil servants and better labour and union rights.
- Reducing the use of "golden shares" in privatisation, to be implemented roughly around 2009-2013, but only after a more concrete EU membership date is foreseen. At the same time, a new institute to oversee state aid will be created. This reform foresees phasing out of preferential treatment of local firms in state tenders, and creating legislation to allow public-private partnerships.
- Amendment of the law on the central bank between 2009-2013, to create a fully independent institution.
- Amendments to judicial processes and various measures of legal harmonisation with the EU acquis communautaire between 2009-2013, which is likely to come in tandem with the legal reforms identified in the screening process of the Turkish body of law.


- Allowing non-prescription drugs to be advertised, with a legal amendment expected in 2007 to the Accreditation Institute Law in mid-2008, and an amendment to the Turkish Standards Law projected for 2009.
- Harmonising the sugar sector with EU regulations.
- Setting up an Agricultural Products Sector Payment Agency in 2008-2009—a key move for creating the infrastructure for EU regional funds.
- Foundation of the National Oil Stock Agency in 2007-2008.
- Liberalisation of the natural gas sector in 2008-2009.
- Passage of the Nuclear Energy Law in 2008-2009.
- Revision of the industrial strategy—with more detail to follow from consultations with various sectors.


- Lifting of limitations on foreign ownership of the media between 2009-2013. The law on the financing and powers of the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation will also be amended by July 2008.
- Passage of the electronic communication law by end-2008 and a law on internet crime.

Services and infrastructure:

- Extending the remit of the 112 emergency phone line to include fire and police emergencies.
- Liberalisation of postal services by end-2008.
- Liberalisation of the railway sector in 2008-2009.
- Harmonisation of laws on air travel between 2009-2013

Outlook and Implications

This is the first draft of the road map and it remains to be seen how willing the government is to adapt to the input it has asked for from civil society, although the wide consultation that has been launched is encouraging. The government is hoping to use civil society as a tool that will lobby the EU and broaden public support, which remains largely on the pragmatic side in terms of EU membership and development. The influential business associations such as the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB) have been lobbying the government to take a more proactive and pro-EU stance to ensure that the serious wobbles seen in 2006 are not repeated. The road map underscores the government's recent assurances that reform will proceed regardless of EU membership, but allows for the defence of some legislative areas until it has a more firm accession date.

The government will proceed with strengthening ties with other regions and countries, having felt slightly bitter at the EU's recent treatment of it as a lesser class of candidate state, which is expected to meet more stringent demands than previous applicants, without even the grace of promised membership. Yesterday, Babacan stressed that the EU-Turkey problems are political and not technical ones. The road map and reforms made so far, as well as the harmonies found during the screening process, demonstrate that Turkey is on the correct regulatory path, and regardless of the EU destination, it will continue to reform to meet international standards for doing business. Babacan, also chief negotiator for EU affairs, told the Bulgarian newspaper, Trud, that, "Turkey will be ready for the EU long before the Union gets ready for a new wave of enlargement", according to Haber.

Relations with the EU this year will remain cool, until the May presidential elections and subsequent parliamentary elections have taken place. The latter are scheduled for November, but may be called sooner. Within the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party and the broad brush of parliamentary parties, support for the EU remains strong, but is more qualified these days to suit the public mood that has been soured by the perceived snubs from the EU.

Regardless of the current atmosphere, economically Turkey has much to offer the EU. It is now the bloc’s fifth-largest trading partner and following the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, data show trade volumes exceeded 90 billion euro in 2006. Turkey is benefiting from increased export volume to the EU too, allowing the trade deficit to be moderated slightly. It is the business lobby that the government is seeking support from now, along with other civic organisations. It has made it clear that it is aiming for 2014 entry by matching the EU financial perspectives and it will also hope to assuage concerns that Turkish entry would be costly for current member states.

Source: Global InsightGAI

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