Summary: 26 June 2009, Brussels – Speech by Olli Rehn, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, "The European Future of Turkey" at the Crans Montana Forum
Prime Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here with you and to take the floor after Prime Minister Erdogan.
The values of peace, liberty and democracy, which are each year celebrated by the Crans Montana Forum, have helped transform Turkey – which is today more prosperous and democratic than ever.
This transformation is closely linked with the EU accession process, which you, Prime Minister, have helped bring about over the past years, and which has been the main vehicle for reform in Turkey.
We have so far opened 10 chapters, and will open another one, taxation, next week. This is a sign that the EU accession process of Turkey is well on track and moving forward.
Today, EU-Turkey ties are bound by strong and shared strategic interests. This is reflected in our trading patterns, in energy security, in the Middle East Peace Process and in the important Alliance of Civilisations, in which Prime Minister Erdogan is personally involved.
As a case in point, it seems we will soon see important progress on the Nabucco pipeline. This is very good news and will send a strong positive signal that progress is possible once there is the political will.
Nabucco will be connecting several countries and companies with the European market, and it has the potential of creating important positive dynamism in the region. I wish to congratulate Turkey and all those involved in this ambitious project, which demonstrates in very concrete terms the shared strategic interests that bind us together.
Your leadership will again be in high demand in the coming months. I am referring, in particular, to a conclusion of the Cyprus talks and to a result-oriented revitalisation of the reform process in Turkey.
We have today a historic opportunity to reunite Cyprus. I trust Turkey will put all its weight behind the UN-led process in order to encourage the leaders of both communities to reach a comprehensive settlement to this decades-long conflict on European soil. As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we stand before another historic opportunity now to end the division of Cyprus. We must use it.
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Dear Prime Minister, we now also have a real chance to re-create a positive, virtuous circle for Turkey's accession process, whereby the reforms lead to concrete progress in the accession negotiations.
Reforms remain the main engine of the accession process. Turkey proved in the past that it is willing and capable to invest political capital, time and resources in the accession process.
We saw further proofs of that in early 2009. The launch of a Kurdish language television channel and the signing of the National Programme for the Adoption of the Acquis were important signals.
However these events took place six months ago. It is now time to resume with full energy the path of political reform to align Turkey with the EU's democratic standards.
In particular, there is a pressing need to reform the legal and constitutional framework governing the closure of political parties. We simply cannot afford yet another unnecessary constitutional crisis stemming from outdated rules not in line with European standards.
It is equally important to guarantee freedom of expression and the independence and pluralism of the media. These are fundamental values in any democratic and open European society. They constitute the very foundation of the democratic transformation of Turkey.
On the EU side, it is crucial that we continue to pursue a consistent policy. The Commission remains fully committed to the EU agenda for Turkey's accession, unanimously agreed by Member States in 2005.
However, no one should be mistaken: There is no cruise control in the accession negotiations. Each step forward requires hard work and intense preparations by the candidates for EU membership.
The values of peace, liberty and democracy which we celebrate today are at the heart of Turkey's transformation. We share a common goal to achieve a fully democratic and prosperous Turkey, which is anchored to Europe through the accession process and would contribute regional stability and world peace.
I commend your leadership on Turkey's membership bid. It will once again be in high demand. I wish you best of success for your work and look forward to continue our cooperation for the EU accession process of Turkey, to the benefit of both Turkey and the EU.