|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||14/12/95, Volume 1, Number 13|
A COUNTRY bordering Syria and Iraq will become part of the EU's single market on New Year's Day after threats by the European Parliament to veto the customs union with Turkey faded in the run-up to the crunch vote.
After warning throughout the year that they might veto the union because of Turkey's poor record on human rights, MEPs finally voted in favour of the accord by 343 votes to 149, with 36 abstentions, yesterday (13 December).
In the end, parliamentarians accepted the argument put forward by those who warned that a veto might set the Ankara government back even more in its attempts at democratic reform, strengthening Turkey's fundamentalist factions and undermining the forces of moderation.
But before voting, MEPs registered their discontent. “We vote with sorrow, with heavy hearts and without enthusiasm,” said Pauline Green, leader of the Parliament's Socialist group.
Liberal leader Gijs de Vries stressed, however, that the Parliament must play its part in helping Turkey keep its democratic government, market economy and NATO membership - an island of relative stability in an unstable region. That island is now linked to the EU through free trade in industrial products and open channels for investment.
Turkish Prime Minister Dr Tansu Çiller, campaigning in Istanbul before the 24 December general elections, welcomed the decision, saying: “This is a road forward to the future and to prosperity, and I hope it is beneficial to all our people.”
In Ankara, her government also cheered. “This is a success and will strengthen all the progressive and reform-minded forces in Turkey,” said Çiller's adviser Murat Ersavci.
Turkey's main exporter, the textile industry, is expected to double its foreign sales from the current level of close to 4 billion ecu. But until Turkey implements the GATT rules already followed by the EU, Turkish textiles must still carry certificates of origin.
The accord's text also says that the EU will accept Turkish assessments that its product standards comply with those of the Union. Turkey will comply with EU automobile manufacturing and car import rules, even assuring that Japanese car exporters cannot use Turkey to get more of their products into the Union than are allowed under an EU-Japan agreement.
If the EU raises its import tariffs on goods, so must Turkey, as part of the 60-page customs union agreement which also contains charts on yoghurt, dried fruit, nuts and spirits.
Free trade for farm products is, for the short term, excluded, but both sides promise to gradually open that trade “on a mutually advantageous basis”. The accord requires Turkey “to adjust its policy in such a way as to adopt the Common Agricultural Policy measures required to establish freedom of movement of agricultural products”. For its part, the EU promises to take Turkey into account when developing EU farm policy.
In addition to lowering the trade drawbridge to Turkish imports, Parliament's Yes vote also frees close to a billion ecu in aid to the Mediterranean nation.
In an open letter to MEPs two days before the vote, Çiller told the Parliament that the customs union would benefit EU producers by giving them “a market second in size to Germany, with a youthful, consumer-oriented population” and a “gateway for investment and trade in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East”.
Saying Turkey had “demonstrated our commitment to achieve reform,” she asked MEPs to remember Turkish troops fighting alongside Europeans in Korea and the Gulf War, and Turkey's contribution of 1,200 troops and 60 million ecu in reconstruction aid in Bosnia.
The Parliament's vote and the entry into force on 1 January of the customs union, completes a process which began with the Ankara Treaty in 1963. Turkish officials say they still hope for full EU membership, but European sources say that day is a long, long way off.
In the meantime, the Parliament and other EU officials hope the customs union offer will keep Turkey on the democratic path. “If by this vote we will help usher in an era of democratic evolution in Turkey, our heartache will have proved groundless,” said Green.
|Subject Categories||Internal Markets, Trade, Values and Beliefs|
|Countries / Regions||Turkey|