Europe isn’t expected to go easy on the pace of Turkey’s reform programme
In a matter of hours, the European Commission will release its latest progress report on Turkey. It seems likely the Commission will criticise Turkey in its strongest language yet, particularly on the matters of Cyprus, Article 301 and human rights. The report will stop short, says NTVMSNBC, of recommending a halt or suspension of membership talks.
The contentious matter of Cypriot access to Turkish ports will be left to a summit of EU leaders to be held in the middle of December. This gives Finland, as term president of the Union, the opportunity to push forward its plans for a solution in Cyprus. They are the likeliest leaders yet to coin a solution – they have, after all, done more to solve the Cyprus issue than anyone since Kofi Annan and his ill-fated plan of 2004.
On the matter of Article 301, it is now too late to change any laws in time for the EU report. But Prime Minister Erdoğan has publicly said a change is necessary, and has called for concrete suggestions on how best to do it.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül appeared to be comfortable as he spoke Can Dündar on NTV last night. He said talk of a crisis was simply sensationalism, and pointed to the important steps Turkey had taken thus far.
One interesting point was his insistence that the government was well aware of its responsibilities to the EU. This is a point so easy to overlook: after all, Turkey can hardly be accused of neglecting the EU issue. It is not a Serbia, nor indeed a Croatia. Turkey and Europe are well aware of what each side wants of the other; where they disagree is over whose terms come first.
The focus of Turkey-EU relations now should not be the upcoming progress report, but what will happen after it. There is a month of serious negotiating ahead, and much more than Turkey’s EU membership depends on it.