80. As we have already mentioned, a common plea from
those in the Turkish establishment who are committed to Turkey's
EU candidacy is for the EU to give Turkey "green lights"
to prove that it is serious about Turkey's candidacy, and to show
sceptics in Turkey that acceptance of difficult reforms will indeed
lead to EU membership. The particular 'green light' most frequently
requested is for a date to be set for Turkey to begin formal accession
81. If Turkey is genuine in its desire to be treated
on an equal footing with the other candidates, the only date which
could reasonably be set would be a provisional one, a fact recognised
by some of those we spoke to in Ankara. All that Turkey can expect
is an undertaking to begin negotiations on a particular date if
it has fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria by that date.
There is no precedent even for this, as Michael Leigh from the
European Commission has told us: "We remind Turkey that in
the past, in the case of Slovakia, for example, we did not fix
a date or open negotiations because the political criteria had
not been satisfied yet."
We agree with Mr Leigh that it is important that the European
Commission should remain as impartial and even-handed as possible
in its treatment of candidate countries' applicationsalthough
there is bound to be an element of subjectivity in deciding whether
the criteria have been satisifed. The European Commission would
not be the appropriate body to suggest a provisional date on which
Turkey's accession negotiations might begin. As far as the Commission
is concerned, negotiations should begin once and as soon as Turkey
has fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria (which might,
at least in theory, be the case before any chosen date).
82. However, as we have already noted, decision does
not rest solely with the European Commission. The member states
can make political decisions in a way which would not be appropriate
for the Commission. Moreover, fears about the wholeheartedness
of the EU's desire to see Turkey a member are directed more towards
the member states than they are towards the Commission. There
is a case for suggesting that at a forthcoming European Council
a statement by the member states encouraging Turkey's application
could give political momentum to reformers in Turkey. Such a statement
might also include an expression of hope that Turkey will be in
a position to begin accession negotiations by a specified date.
83. The EU is not always averse to setting dates.
The short-term priorities in the Accession Partnership were due
for completion in 2001, although a number of these were in the
event not satisfactorily completed to time. The Foreign Secretary,
however, has told us that "it has been collectively judged
that it would not be appropriate to offer them [Turkey] a date
at the moment".
Peter Ricketts from the FCO offered a practical reason for why
setting a date would not be appropriate: "in the end it is
up to the Turks themselves and the pace of their own economic
and political reform programmes which will determine how quickly
they move through this process leading to the accession negotiations".
There are also other possible drawbacks to setting a date. The
Turkish media would almost certainly portray the date as a promise
of admission and put less emphasis on the conditionality attached.
It would be hard to resist headlines such as 'Turkey will begin
negotiations in year x'. If at the date itself Turkey was not
after all ready to begin negotiations, and the EU said as much,
this would be likely to cause an outcry in Turkey and damage the
position of reformers within the Turkish establishment.
84. The advantages of setting a target date for Turkey
to begin accession negotiations are probably offset by the false
expectations which this move would excite. There is a danger,
however, that if a date is not set, mistrust of the EU will increase
and reform in Turkey will lose momentum. We recommend that
the Government should consider whether it would be in Turkey's
interests for a forthcoming European Council to set a date by
which, in the estimation of member states, Turkey should be ready
to begin accession negotiations. We further recommend, if the
Government concludes that setting such a date would not be in
Turkey's interests, that it should ensure that the reasons why
this is the case are properly explained in Turkey and more widely.
Finally, we recommend that the Government should do its utmost
to encourage forthcoming European Councils to produce conclusions
which encourage progress in Turkey's candidacy whether a date
is set or not.
BORDER DISPUTES: GREECE AND THE
85. At the Helsinki European Council, candidate states
were urged to make every effort to resolve outstanding border
disputes, and, failing this, to bring the dispute within a reasonable
time to the International Court of Justice. The European Council
has undertaken to review progress on resolving such disputes by
the end of 2004 at the latest. Turkey has a number of disputes
with Greece concerning islands in the Aegean, airspace, and, most
controversially, maritime waters. According to Professor Clement
Dodd, Turkey is concerned at Greece's desire to extend its territorial
waters to twelve nautical miles, the current international norm.
If this limit were enforced, shipping to and from Turkey's two
largest ports, Istanbul and Izmir, would be unable to access the
High Seas without passing through Greek territorial waters.
On 12 February, the Greek and Turkish Foreign Ministers began
talks to try to resolve the issue.
We conclude that progress in negotiations between Turkey and
Greece aimed at resolving boundary disputes in the Aegean would
be good news not only for Turkey's EU candidacy but also for the
stability of the region as a whole.
74 Q 21 Back
Q 104 Back
Reported in International Herald Tribune, 11 January 2002 Back
Ev 92, para 4 [Dr David Shankland] Back
Q 17 Back
Q 105 Back
Q 18 Back
Ev 2, para 8 Back
Ev 87, section 2 Back
Ev 5, para 8 Back
Q 190 Back
Q 17 Back
Q 71 Back
Q 64 Back
Ev 75-76 Back
Q 69 Back
Q 208 Back
Q 14 [William Park] Back
Q 49 [Michael Leigh] Back
Q 50 Back
Q 177 Back
Q 177 Back
Ev 85-86, section A 2 (iv) Back
The Aegean Sea: Bridge or Barrier?, Commander Mike Mason,
RUSI Whitehall Paper Series No 54, p. 2 Back
'Turks and Greeks break ice', The Guardian, 13 February