30th Anniversary of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute

It is a pleasure for me to be here with you at this Conference held on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Turkish Foreign Policy Institute (FPI).

The FPI is one of Turkey’s leading institutions in its field.

It has over the years served as a useful instrument in contributing to Turkish foreign policy through its research, meetings and publications.

It has set an example for the other non-governmental

think-tanks on foreign policy.

It has worked closely with prominent institutions world wide in identifying international trends.

It has held numerous international conferences that have addressed many pertinent topics of interest to Turkish foreign policy.

Turkey’s relations with Europe in general and the EU in particular has been a subject that the FPI has devoted to much energy.

Our meeting today is also such an occasion.

The theme of this meeting is an issue that is on everyone’s mind these days.

There is a lively public debate both here at home and in capitals across Europe on Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

The Commission’s report of 6 October has intensified this debate.

Turkey has always been an integral part and indispensable actor of Europe throughout history.

This is today manifested in its membership in all Euro-Atlantic structures. It is in fact a founding member of most.

It is also one of earliest countries to seek, as far back as in 1959, membership in what today has become the EU.

In other words, Turkey has been preparing to consolidate its ties with Europe for nearly half a century.

Turkey’s engagement with Europe has been a constant theme both on Turkey’s and Europe’s foreign policy agendas.

Our full integration with Europe through membership has been declared to be  a strategic objective for Turkey and Europe.

 My Government has managed to bring Turkey to this decisive phase in our accession process to the EU.

Indeed, upon assuming office, we set out on a bold process of reform that has politically and economically transformed Turkey in less than two years.

We have worked around the clock to bring this strategic objective closer within reach.  

The legislative reforms we have realized and the resolve we have displayed to implement and enforce them with full popular support, have also been acknowledged by the EU Commission.

The distance Turkey has covered is there for all to see in the progress report issued by the Commission.

The Impact Study prepared by the Commission on many sectors like agriculture, industry, energy, finance and others, including the strategic aspect proves that Turkey will not a burden or a liability for Europe, but an asset.

But what is of significant consequence is the conclusion drawn by the Commission that Turkey has thereby sufficiently met the Copenhagen political criteria.

Accordingly, the Commission has made the vital recommendation to open accession negotiations with Turkey.

It will be recalled that the European Council in Copenhagen in 2002 and again in Brussels in 2004 made a commitment to Turkey.

This is to initiate accession negotiations with Turkey without delay, if it concluded on the basis of the Commission’s report and recommendation that Turkey had fulfilled the political criteria.

Turkey has delivered on its end and the Commission has made its recommendation.

It is now the turn of the EU member states to reciprocate.  

We are confident that the political leadership of the EU will stand behind its word and display the political will to act on the Commission’s recommendation.

We anticipate a decision by the EU this December that will permit for accession negotiations to begin in the first half of 2005.

There are also some nuances in the Commissions proposals on the modalities, procedures and end game of the negotiations which differ from past practice.

We are naturally discussing these issues with our EU partners.

At Helsinki, Turkey was declared a candidate country destined to join the Union on equal footing with the other accession countries.

Therefore, we do not ask for preferential, but similar treatment.

With the start of negotiations we will enter the final phase of our accession process.

We realize this will also be an intense phase requiring the same hard work and commitment we have displayed up till now.

We are aware of our obligations and we are ready to assume them.

We know that the duration of the negotiations will be largely determined by our performance.

If our performance to date is any measure, everybody can rest assured that we will demonstrate the same commitment in the negotiations.

We will also continue to pursue our relentless efforts for reform during the negotiations phase.

Public attention has been focused mostly on the reforms enacted to fulfill the political criteria, which as we all know is necessary for starting negotiations.

But we have also been busy during the same period in conducting a detailed scrutiny of the EU Acquis to align our legislation with the policies and practices of the EU.

In this connection, important preparations have been made in all the fields that fall under the 31 negotiation chapters.

Accordingly, throughout the pre-accession process Turkey has also been taking steps to align itself with the foreign and security policies of the Union.

Indeed, as noted in the progress report, Turkey has continued to position its policies in line with that of the Union.

We have demonstrated a record rate of alignment with EU declarations on various international and regional issues.

Many of the issues that dominate our foreign policy agenda such as:

•       promoting good neighborly relations,

•       supporting the restitution of political stability, rehabilitation    and reconstruction under the difficult circumstances that prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan,

•       advocating the cause of peace in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and reforms for democratic and economic development in the context of the Middle East and the Mediterranean,  

•       encouraging the resolution of disputes that are a source of instability in the Caucasus,

•       keeping vigilant watch over peace and stability in the Balkan’s,

•       employing constructive efforts for a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus problem,

just to name a few, to a great extent converge with the policy objectives of the EU.

Indeed, as the negotiations process is launched, Turkey will increasingly play a more instrumental role in the pursuit and realization of the EU’s foreign and security policy objectives in the direction of promoting peace and security in the world.

Turkey has been active in the development of the European Security and Defense Policy and NATO-EU strategic cooperation.

We took part in the EU-led police missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia.

We are ready to bring our contribution to the Althea operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Our accumulated experience in peace-keeping world wide will serve as an important asset for the EU’s capacity and capabilities in crisis management.

Similarly, Turkey’s contribution will prove to be of central significance in the effective implementation of the new European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).

Turkey’s strategic disposition in close proximity to regions where the world’s main sources of conflict and asymmetrical threats loom is seen by some as a liability for the EU.

They neglect, however, to see the many advantages that Turkey’s close historical ties and cultural affinities across the vast landscape of Eurasia will offer the Union to project peace and stability.