The Commission’s 2012 Progress Report on Turkey highlights the successful launch of the positive agenda to support and to complement the accession negotiations, through enhanced cooperation in a number of areas of joint interest: political reforms, alignment with EU law, dialogue on foreign policy, visa, mobility and migration, trade, energy, and counter terrorism. It welcomes Turkey’s work on a new Constitution via a participatory process. However, concerns are growing regarding Turkey’s lack of substantial progress towards fully meeting the political criteria; the situation regarding the respect for fundamental rights continues to be a source of serious preoccupation.
Political criteria
The potential of the EU-Turkey relationship can be fully tapped only within the framework of an active and credible accession process, which respects the EU’s commitment and the established conditionality. It is in the interest of both the EU and Turkey that accession negotiations regain their momentum, not least to ensure the EU remains the benchmarks for reforms in Turkey.
The report welcomes the participative work on a new Constitution, the adoption of the law on the Ombudsman institution, and the improvements in the Turkish criminal justice system introduced through the 3rd judicial reform package. Overall, though, there was a recurrent lack of consultation in the legislative process. Despite recent legislative improvements, the specific legal framework on terrorism and organised crime is applied so widely that it leads to recurring infringements of the right to liberty and security, of the right to a fair trial and of the freedom of expression, assembly and association. While debates continue on topics perceived as sensitive (such as the Armenian issue or the role of the military) restrictions on freedom of the media in practice and numerous court cases against writers and journalists remain issues of serious concern. Self-censorship is widespread.
The Kurdish issue remains a key challenge for Turkey’s democracy; the democratic opening came to a virtual halt. Local government in the South-East suffered from the detention of numerous local politicians.
Over the past months, PKK terrorist attacks increased sharply.
With regard to regional issues and international obligations, Turkey expressed support to the negotiations between the leaders of the two communities under the good offices of the UN Secretary-General to find a comprehensive settlement to the Cyprus problem. Despite repeated calls by the Council and the Commission, Turkey has still not ensured full non-discriminatory implementation of its Customs Union obligations with the EU, nor of the Additional Protocol and there is no progress towards normalisation of bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus. The Commission reiterates its serious concerns with regard to Turkish statements and threats and calls for full respect of the role of the Presidency of the Council.
Economic criteria
Turkey is a functioning market economy. In 2011, the Turkish economy grew by impressive 8.5%. Growth was largely driven by domestic demand, in particular stemming from the private sector. Since mid-2011, however, the pace of growth has slowed down gradually. The slowdown in domestic demand is accompanied by an improvement in the trade and current account deficits, albeit from very high levels (10% of GDP in 2011). The robust economic expansion also allowed strong employment growth and a drop in unemployment.  The budget performed better than expected, especially due to domestic demand. Public debt fell to about 39% of GDP.
At the same time, the soft landing scenario is challenged by bouts of financial uncertainty and the global risk sentiment. To mitigate these risks, better coordination of fiscal and monetary policies is needed.
EU Legislation
Turkey continued improving its ability to take on the obligations of membership. Progress was made in most areas, in particular on company law, science and research and Customs Union provisions. Efforts need to continue towards further alignment in most fields. The administrative capacity to cope with the body of EU law in terms of effectiveness and efficiency needs to be strengthened. Enforcement capacity also needs to be strengthened in certain areas.
The swift conclusion and the effective implementation of the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, initialled in June, are of crucial importance.
State of play on accession negotiations
EU accession negotiations with Turkey began on 3 October 2005. In total, 13 out of 33 negotiation chapters have been opened and one chapter has been provisionally closed. As a result of Turkey not having fully implemented the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement, the EU decided in December 2006 that eight negotiating chapters could not be opened and that no chapter could be provisionally closed until Turkey meets its obligations.
September 1959: Turkey applies for associate membership of the European Economic Community (EEC)
September 1963: Signature of the Association Agreement, aiming at bringing Turkey into a Customs Union with the EEC and to eventual membership
April 1987: Turkey presents its application for membership of the EEC
January 1995: Turkey – EU Agreement creating a customs union
December 1999: Turkey obtains the status of candidate country
December 2004: The European Council defines the conditions for the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey
October 2005: Start of accession negotiations
December 2006: The Council decides that 8 negotiating chapters cannot be opened and no chapter can be closed until Turkey meets its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional protocol to the Association Agreement
June 2010: Chapter on Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy becomes the 13th chapter on which negotiations are opened
May 2012: European Commission and Turkey start the implementation of the Positive agenda for Turkey
More information at: