Updated: 12/02/2020

History of Turkey- EU Relations

Ever since its foundation, Turkey has closely followed developments in international conjuncture, with the aim of reaching the level of contemporary civilizations and has become an active member of international organizations such as OECD and NATO. In this direction, on 31 July 1959 Turkey applied for association with European Economic Community(EEC), which was described as the most successful peace project in the history of mankind, shortly after its creation in 1958. On behalf of Turkey, Adnan Menderes, who was prime minister at that time and the leader of Democratic Party made the application. Menderes stated that with this application Turkey took its first step to Europe.

The Ankara Agreement

The council of ministers of EEC accepted Turkey’s application and suggested the establishment of an association until Turkey's circumstances permitted its accession. The ensuing negotiations resulted in the signature of the Agreement Creating an Association between the Republic of Turkey and the European Economic Community (the "Ankara Agreement") on 12 September 1963. This agreement entered into force on 1 December 1964.

Ankara Agreement constitutes the legal basis of the association between Turkey and the European Union (EU). İsmet İnönü, who was prime minister of the time and signatory of the Ankara Agreement described EEC as ‘‘the bravest product of human intelligence in the history of mankind." 

The article two of Ankara Agreement states that:

‘‘The aim of this Agreement is to promote the continuous and balanced strengthening of trade and economic relations between the Parties, while taking full account of the need to ensure an accelerated development of the Turkish economy and to improve the level of employment and living conditions of the Turkish people.’’

Furthermore, in article 28 it is said that:

‘‘As soon as the operation of this Agreement has advanced far enough to justify envisaging full acceptance by Turkey of the obligations arising out of the Treaty establishing the Community, the Contracting Parties shall examine the possibility of the accession of Turkey to the Community.’’

It is clearly understood from this article that ‘‘ultimate goal of Turkey-EEC association relation is Turkey’s full membership to the Community’’. In Ankara Agreement, three phases, namely, preparation, transition and final periods were envisaged for Turkey’s integration to the EEC. Preparation period started on 1 December 1964 when the Agreement entered into force. In this period the aim was to reduce economic differences between parties. Turkey did not undertake any obligations in this period. Association organs concerning the functioning of relations were formed. Among them, Turkey-EU Association Council is the highest decision making organ.

The Additional Protocol

With the Additional Protocol of 13 November 1970, which entered into force in 1973, preparation period ended and conditions for transition period were set. In this period, free movement of industrial and agricultural products as well as persons were foreseen.

As of 1971, within the framework of Additional Protocol EEC abolished tariff and quantitative barriers to its imports from Turkey (with some exceptions including fabrics and petroleum products.) In return, it was foreseen that Turkey would also gradually abolish tariff for industrial products of EEC. Thus, a 22-year timetable was set for the establishment of the Customs Union.

Turkey-EU relations was unstable from the beginnings of 1970’s to the second half of 1980’s due to political and economic reasons. Relations were formally suspended after the military coup of 12 September 1980.

Turkey's Application for Full Membership in 1987

After civil authority was reestablished in Turkey in 1983, and import-substitution policies were abandoned from 1984 on, Turkey opened its economy to the operation of international market forces. Thus, process of revitalization of Turkey-EEC relations, which was frozen since 12 September 1980, were started.

Turkey applied for full membership on 14 April 1987, without waiting the completion of phases foreseen in Ankara Agreement.

18 December 1989-The Community’s decision on Turkey’s application:

"The Community is unable to accept any new members before completing its internal integration. Although it is eligible to join the Community, Turkey should develop further in economic, social and political terms. Therefore, it is appropriate to continue the relations within the framework of the Association Agreement."

This suggestion was evaluated positively by Turkey and preparations were started to complete Customs Union in 1995 as foreseen in the Additional Protocol. After two years of negotiations, the Customs Union was established between Turkey and the EU by the Turkey-EC Association Council Decision of 6 March 1995 and entered into force on 1 January 1996. Thus, Turkey-EU Association relations were carried to the final period. Customs Union is one of the most important stages towards Turkey’s goal of  integration with the EU and brought new dimension to the Turkey-EU relations.

Helsinki Summit

The Helsinki European Council held on 10-11 December 1999 produced a breakthrough in Turkey-EU relations. At Helsinki, Turkey was officially recognised without any precondition as a candidate state on an equal footing with the other candidate states.

As foreseen in the Helsinki European Council conclusions, the EU Commission started to prepare an Accession Partnership for Turkey, which was accepted on March 8th, 2001. After the approval of the Accession Partnership by the Council and the adoption of the Framework Regulation, the Turkish Government announced its own National Programme for the Adoption of the EU acquis on March 19th, 2001. The National Programme was submitted to the EU Commission on March 26th, 2001. The National Programme has been produced with a careful appreciation of the short and medium term priorities as spelled out in the Accession Partnership.

Accession Partnership document was revised by the EU in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008, whereas National Programme was updated in 2003,2005 and 2008. Political will that shows its determination in EU membership path accelarated the reform process. Thus, Turkey began to take significant steps in order to comply with the political criteria and harmonization packages were approved by the Turkish Grand National Assembly and entered into force . Turkey continued its reform process which extend the scope of fundamental rights and freedoms, strengthen the existing regulations on democracy, rule of law, freedom of thought and expression and human rights. Within this framework between 2002-2004 8 harmonization packages, and between 2001-2004 2 constitutional amendments were accepted.

17 December 2004 Brussels Summit witnessed another turning point in Turkey-EU relations. The Council stated Turkey sufficiently fulfilled the political criteria and took the decision to start accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005.

Accession Negotiations

Accession negotiations have been launched on 3 October 2005 and the Negotiation Framework Document was announced. Thus, after this significant turning point, up and down relationship between Turkey-EU  entered new era .

Until today, In Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, 16 chapters are opened whereas one chapter is temporarily closed. 

Due to the political blockages of member states and Cyprus issue, the accession process have come to a deadlock. While 13 chapters were opened between 2006-2010, only one chapter was able to open in the period of 2010-2013.

Positive Agenda was started on 17 May 2012 between Turkey and the European Commission. Positive Agenda is a working method, which aims enhancing Turkey-EU cooperation in areas of joint interest and fulfilling the technical opening and closing benchmarks of negotiation chapters, including politically blocked ones, with the established working groups. Positive Agenda ended when Johannes Hahn took the office of Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy from Štefan Füle.

Updated: 12/02/2020 / Hit: 894,796