EU and Turkey reengage in Customs Union modernization talks
Officials from the European Union (EU) and Turkey have announced plans to recommence discussions aimed at modernizing the customs union between the two entities. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan made this significant announcement during a news conference in Ankara on Wednesday.
Turkey's aspiration to join the European Union has spanned over two decades, with official candidate status being granted 24 years ago. However, accession talks have faced a series of hurdles in recent years, primarily centered around the EU's concerns regarding human rights violations and the rule of law in Turkey.
In July of this year, President Tayyip Erdogan expressed the desire to reopen Ankara's accession talks and reaffirmed that full EU membership remained a pivotal strategic objective for Turkey.
Foreign Minister Fidan's announcement came following discussions with EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi, in which both parties reached an agreement to resume negotiations concerning the customs union. The customs union aims to facilitate unhindered access for goods between the European Union and Turkey.
"Delegations will start convening as of next week, and the efforts will pick up pace," stated Minister Fidan, indicating the urgency and importance of the upcoming discussions.
The EU-Turkey customs union was initially established in 1995 but is presently restricted to industrial goods and processed agricultural products. The proposed modernization is expected to broaden its scope and address contemporary trade challenges.
In an interview with Reuters, Commissioner Varhelyi disclosed that his talks in Ankara had successfully identified areas where the EU and Turkey could immediately commence collaboration. However, he emphasized that full EU membership would require Turkey to take significant steps in improving the rule of law and respecting human rights.
"We have agreed to address the most pressing outstanding issues that we can tackle even before the modernization of the customs union. Our colleagues will convene soon and commence work immediately," Varhelyi remarked.
When asked about the possibility of Turkey becoming part of the EU enlargement target set for 2030, as outlined by European Council President Charles Michel, Commissioner Varhelyi highlighted the current priority, which is to foster a more positive atmosphere between Turkey and the EU. Recent disputes between Ankara and some EU member states, particularly Greece and Cyprus, have strained relations in recent years.
Varhelyi expressed optimism, stating, "My visit has confirmed that there is more than openness from Ankara to advance the accession process. The EU has received a series of very positive messages from Turkey recently on this matter. However, before moving forward, we need to establish a positive agenda."
As the EU and Turkey prepare to restart talks on the customs union, the international community will closely watch these developments, hoping for a constructive dialogue that can lead to improved relations and potential progress towards Turkey's long-standing goal of EU membership.