The bloc and Ankara accelerated the process after signing a deal to stem the flow of refugees from Turkey to the EU. The opening of Chapter 17, one of 35 in the EU’s membership talks, marks not just the first formal discussions since 2013 but what many in Brussels see as a fresh start for EU-Turkey ties after years of uneasy relations, according to Turkish and European officials.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek, in Brussels for the opening of a new accession chapter with the European Union, said he expected quick progress on bringing Ankara in line with the EU’s economic and monetary policy.
“Turkey does not have major shortcomings regarding this chapter,” Şimşek, who is also in charge of the economy in the new Turkish government, told a news conference, as quoted by Reuters.
Turkey’s opening of a new accession chapter with the EU was important for investment and prosperity, but reviving relations with the EU was the key point, Şimşek said.
Revival of ties ‘key’ for Turkey
He noted the re-launching of the EU process would be of great importance in reviving investor interest in Turkey.
“The reviving of relations with the EU is the key point for us… This process is of great importance for realizing critical reforms. There is not another region other than the EU that we can be inspired by in maintaining institutions of high quality,” Şimşek noted.
“Turkey and the EU will get closer with each other. We want to deepen our ties with the EU. Turkey is ready to fulfil all criteria. We have confidence about this and we want to deepen this integration process,” he added.
Şimşek noted that Turkey’s demographic structure was very suitable for long-term growth.
“If we can increase the productivity in institutions, we can close the gap with the EU,” he added.
France’s minister for European affairs, Harlem Desir, said he expected to see a “willingness to implement reforms in Turkey that contribute to the modernization of Turkish society, the Turkish economy,” as quoted by Reuters.
Talks on updating Customs Union deal
Talks between Ankara and the European Union about updating Turkey’s customs union will also begin next year, EU Affairs Minister and Chief Negotiator Volkan Bozkır said.
Bozkır said Turkey-EU relations have gained a new paradigm, in an exclusive interview with Turkish NTV on Dec. 14.
“Turkey has been the only non-EU country that has been a member of the Customs Union. Turkey has a strong economy which can export around 15,000 items to the EU. The talks will officially start by next year to update the Customs Union,” Bozkır said.
The decision to open the chapter on economic and monetary policy comes at a time of concern from investors over whether the program of Turkey’s new government will curtail central bank independence.