Council conclusions on Enlargement and Stabilisation and Association Process
General Affairs Council meeting
Brussels, 16 December 2014
20. The Council regrets that the response by the government to the alleged cases of corruption in December 2013 cast serious doubts over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and demonstrated an increasing intolerance of political opposition, public protest and critical media.
In this regard, recent police raids and the detention of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey call into question the respect for freedom of the media, which is a core principle of democracy.
The Council recalls that progress in accession negotiations depends on respecting rule of law and fundamental rights.
The Council emphasises the important role of the Constitutional Court and takes positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which should be further supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder.
15. The Council reaffirms the importance it attaches to EU relations with Turkey. Turkey is a candidate country and a key partner for the EU. Its dynamic economy provides a valuable contribution to the prosperity of the European continent. The EU should remain the anchor for Turkey’s political and economic reforms. Turkey can accelerate the pace of negotiations by advancing in the fulfilment of the benchmarks, meeting the requirements of the negotiating framework and by respecting its contractual obligations towards the EU. In this context, the Council welcomes the commitment of the Turkish government to EU accession and looks forward to the concrete follow-up of its recently adopted EU Strategy which aims to reinvigorate Turkey’s accession process.
16. The Council recalls the important regional role of Turkey and its active involvement in its wider neighbourhood. The very serious developments in the region, in particular in Syria and Iraq, render it crucial that dialogue and cooperation on foreign policy issues is increased within the framework of the EU-Turkey political dialogue. The Council welcomes the reception and shelter by Turkey of well over one million refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq. The EU will continue to support Turkey so it can deal effectively with the increasing flow of refugees. The political dialogue should be used to develop closer cooperation against ISIL and its funding networks, as well as to enhance the cooperation to stem the flow of foreign fighters. The Council also welcomes the active counter terrorism dialogue between the EU and Turkey, and the exchange of best practice on the prevention of radicalisation and recruitment to terrorism. Operational cooperation will be further enhanced by the adoption by Turkey of further relevant counter-terrorism legislation, including on data protection.The Council recalls that the PKK is on the EU list of terrorist organisations. In line with the Negotiating Framework, the EU continues to encourage Turkey to develop its foreign policy as a complement to and in coordination with the EU, and to progressively align with EU Common Foreign and Security Policy.
17. The Council welcomes the continued implementation of reforms adopted in previous years, in particular measures announced in the September 2013 democratisation package, and the Action Plan for the Prevention of Violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Council also strongly supports the renewed efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue. The Council encourages further engagement by all parties to move the process forward.
18. The Council welcomes the entry into force in October of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement. The Council also welcomes the findings of the report of the Commission on progress made by Turkey in fulfilling the requirements of the visa liberalisation roadmap.
Progress in the dialogue on visa liberalisation will be founded on a performance-based approach and conditioned on effective and consistent implementation by Turkey of the requirements in the visa roadmap. In this context, the entry into force of the law on foreigners and international protection in April 2014 and the adoption of the regulation granting temporary protection to refugees in October 2014 represent significant progress in the area of migration and asylum. While regretting the unilateral statement made by Turkey in this regard, the Council expects full and effective implementation by Turkey of both the readmission agreement and the visa roadmap vis-à-vis all EU Member States, including nondiscriminatory visa-free access to the Turkish territory for the citizens of all EU Member States. Adequate implementation by Turkey of existing bilateral readmission agreements and readmission provisions contained in similar agreements between Turkey and EU Member States remains a priority. Cooperation between Turkey and all EU Member States, aiming in particular at reinforcing the management of the common borders with all EU Member States, needs to be increased.
19. The Council urges Turkey to work on reforms which should provide for adequate checks and balances fully guaranteeing freedom, including freedom of thought, expression and of the media, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including rights of women, children and persons belonging to minorities, freedom of religion and property rights, as well as enhance implementation of all the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The Council recalls that under Article 46 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the contracting parties undertake to abide by the final judgments of the Court in any case to which they are parties. Legislation on the right to association and the right to assembly, as well as on intervention by law enforcement officers, should be brought in line with European standards. The Council remains concerned at the undue interference by the executive in the judiciary, frequent changes to key legislation without due consultation of stakeholders, and restrictions on access to information. In order to address all these issues, the Council considers that stepping up cooperation and strengthening common activities in the area of rule of law and fundamental rights will bring Turkey closer to the EU and speed up work on possible future discussions in these key areas.
20. The Council regrets that the response by the government to the alleged cases of corruption in December 2013 cast serious doubts over the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and demonstrated an increasing intolerance of political opposition, public protest and critical media. In this regard, recent police raids and the detention of a number of journalists and media representatives in Turkey call into question the respect for freedom of the media, which is a core principle of democracy. The Council recalls that progress in accession negotiations depends on respecting rule of law and fundamental rights. The Council emphasises the important role of the Constitutional Court and takes positive note of the growing and active civil society in Turkey, which should be further supported and encouraged as a legitimate stakeholder.
21. The Council recalls that Turkey is an important trading partner for the EU and contributes to EU competitiveness through the Customs Union. The Council looks forward to discussions with the Commission on the Customs Union, with a view to future proposals aimed at realising its full potential, also in light of the publication of the World Bank study completed in 2014. Given the strong economic links between Turkey and the EU, the Council calls for the development of a high level economic dialogue. Progress under chapter 17 (Economic and monetary policy) would in due course further support such dialogue and encourage alignment with the acquis. The Council also calls for the further strengthening of EU-Turkey energy cooperation with the aim of facilitating the interconnection and integration of energy markets, in line with international law.
22. In line with the Negotiating Framework and previous European Council and Council conclusions, the Council reiterates that Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations and to the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice. In this context, the Union expresses once again serious concern, and urges Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or source of friction or actions, which damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes. Moreover, the EU stresses again all the sovereign rights of EU Member States. This includes, inter alia, the right to enter into bilateral agreements and to explore and exploit natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and also stresses the need to respect the sovereignty of Member States over their territorial sea and airspace. The Council recalls that the European Council, in its conclusions of 24 October 2014, expressed serious concern about the renewed tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and urged Turkey to show restraint and to respect Cyprus’ sovereignty over its territorial sea and Cyprus’ sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone.
23. Recalling its conclusions of 11 December 2006 and the declaration of 21 September 2005, the Council notes with deep regret that Turkey, despite repeated calls, continues refusing to fulfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement towards all Member States, the fulfilment of which could provide a significant boost to the negotiation process. In the absence of progress on this issue, the Council will maintain its measures from 2006, which will have a continuous effect on the overall progress of the negotiations. Furthermore, Turkey has regrettably still not made progress towards the necessary normalisation of its relations with the Republic of Cyprus.
The Council reiterates that recognition of all Member States is a necessary component of the accession process. The Council invites the Commission to continue to monitor closely and specifically report on all issues covered by the declaration of 21 September 2005 in its forthcoming annual report. On this basis, the Council will continue to closely follow and review progress made, in accordance with its relevant conclusions. The Council reiterates its call for progress without any further delay.
24. The Council welcomes the engagement by the parties to the settlement of the Cyprus problem, as demonstrated in the joint declaration of 11 February 2014. As emphasised by the Negotiating Framework, the Council expects Turkey to actively support the negotiations aimed at a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the Union is founded. Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to such a comprehensive settlement is crucial. Under the current circumstances, the Council considers it more important than ever to ensure a positive climate so that negotiations for a comprehensive Cyprus’ settlement can resume.