By Vildan Özkan
Ireland will take over the next half-year term presidency of the Council of European Union which has already brought about a wide-range of discussions and optimistic commentaries with respect to Turkey’s recently stagnant relations with EU. A good majority of people from the Turkish side take this as good news, a positive change in the face of restructuring EU’s decision making bodies. Turkish EU Minister and the Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış has so far made good remarks on the new stage of Turkey-EU integration talks that will assumedly follow a different path than negotiations during the preceding term under the Greek Cypriot presidency. He referred to the time period from 1st January onwards as a critical juncture and a historical turning point in regard to Turkey’s accession process for full membership in the EU.
With his statement, “We are voicing our demands on the opening of new negotiation chapters”, he clearly defined the general framework of the new term strategy manifested by Turkey’s Ministry for European Union Affairs as to move on new chapters one after another.
Irish Minister of European Affairs Lucinda Creighton also expressed an optimistic opinion a while ago on Turkey’s case, saying: “We will be very well positioned to work with Turkey on opening at least one chapter during the Irish presidency – that is our goal and I think that we will be able to deliver that.”
The fact that Ireland’s former term presidency of 2004 witnessed the ‘grand’ EU enlargement with the inclusion of 10 new members in total, increases hopes for Turkey’s good chance.
Ireland actually holds a long history record of hosting the EU Presidency since 1975, the first term of presidency which came about only 2 years after becoming a full member state in 1973. Each time the nation proved itself to be more than capable of handling both administrative duties and finding a way out of diplomatic crisis. January 1st 2013 will mark the 7th presidential term to be lead by Ireland.
Turkey decidedly pushes on opening of the 19th chapter, titled “Social Policy and Employment”, claiming that the necessary legislative procedure has been successfully performed and two pieces of legislation have passed Turkish Parliament with the joint support of both business associations and labour unions. Bağıs underlined “Turkey is more than ready having done what is required for the 19th chapter.” Currently, French blockage on the 17th and 22nd chapters concerning Turkey’s finacial and regional policies; and the blockage by the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus on chapters about energy policy, educational reform, cultural rights, judicial regulations and fundemental human rights constitute the biggest obstacles on Turkey’s way to the EU. However, Ireland gave positive hints in the high-level meetings of this week of its strong support vital for overcoming some arbitrary blockages.