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The German EU Presidency - Implications for Accession Negotiations with Turkey

Expectations are high, opportunities low - the German Council Presidency, started on 1 January 2007, constitutes a great challenge as well as a test for the federal government. Germany has taken over the Presidency in acritical phase for the Union's development. (IN: ZEI EU-Turkey Monitory, March 2007)

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Germany has taken over the Presidency in a critical phase for the Union's development. Euro-scepticism has increased in many member states: Some even diagnose a confidence and orientation crisis. The reform process has slowed down - the negative outcome of the referenda in France and in the Netherlands illustrate this clearly. With the

accession of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007, the EU - now encompassing 27 members - has reached limits of its capacity to act.

However, the German Presidency will also see the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Roman Treaties, signed on 25 March 1957. On the one hand, this constitutes an opportunity to celebrate the unique success story of the European Union: It guarantees peace and welfare, liberty and democracy in Europe. It has overcome the division of the

continent, has created a common market for half a billion people and has established a single currency. On the other hand, the EU has the opportunity to give new impetus to the constitutional debate on the occasion ofthe extraordinary summit on 25 March 2007.

It is planned to agree on a "Berlin Declaration", addressing the central values and the future mission of the EU.

The German Presidency is confronted with a long list of topics: It comprises the constitutional treaty, the enlargement process, neighbourhood policy, energy and environment policy, the fight against organised crime and

terrorism as well as the Union's financing and bureaucracy reduction. During the German six-month term, the room for

manoeuvre is limited. Therefore, the Council has - for the first time ever - adopted an 18-month work programme for the three subsequent presidencies of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia from January 2007 to June 2008. This constitutes the official work programme of the Council during this period and was prepared in close collaboration with

the Commission, aiming at strengthening continuity in the Council's actions.

A central concern of the German chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel is to find a way out of the constitutional deadlock until the EU Summit end of June 2007.This will be a difficult task, especially if one considers how diverse the

positions of member states are in this particular question: The "friends of the Constitution", 18 EU members, have already ratified the Constitution. They intend to preserve the current constitutional treaty as far

as possible, with some additions if necessary.

Others strongly support a substantial cut, leading to a "mini treaty". Poland has announced its own proposal for a new constitutional treaty for March 2007, the Czech Republic strives for a considerable rephrasing and the United Kingdom rejects basic parts of the constitutional treaty - such as the increase of qualified majority voting, the

creation of an EU foreign minister or an EU foreign service.

The federal government will have detailed talks with all 26 partners to figure out in how far all these positions can be merged. This is supposed to lead to a clear roadmap, highlighting the necessary measures to solve the problem over the constitutional treaty. There is definitely the need to solve the constitutional deadlock well ahead of the European Parliament elections in spring 2009.

Another important requirement for the continuation of the European integration process - and therefore a task of the German Presidency - will be to tackle the widespread euro-scepticism. With the EU becoming larger and more difficult to understand, people want to know about the meaning and benefits of the European Union in more detail.

This also touches on the issue of identity and creating a feeling of belonging together.

Therefore, it needs to be increasingly stressed that the Union's actions and cohesion are based on common values. Values Europe stands for and values Europe wants to preserve on the worldwide market of cultures.

In a speech held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 17 January 2007 chancellor Merkel summarised the basic character of Europe: "The soul of Europe is tolerance". Tolerance allows for diversity, and diversity guarantees liberty in Europe:

  • the liberty to publicly express ones opinion, even if this bothers others;
  • the liberty to believe or not to believe;
  • the liberty of entrepreneurial action.
Bearing in mind the constitutional crisis and citizens' scepticism with regard to the enlargement process, the Chancellor reminded of the basic motives and the core of the European integration process: liberty and

tolerance. She also highlighted that these two need to guide Europeans in the future as well in order to manage the challenges in security, economics and the field of foreign policy.

The enlargement process will continue during the German Presidency - by respecting the integration capacity of the EU and based on the resolutions of the EU summit in December 2006. This also concerns the accession negotiations with Turkey. The decision of the summit to temporarily suspend eight chapters - because of the Turkish refusal to grant Greek-Cypriot vessels access to Turkish harbours - constitutes a certain setback but not the end to negotiations.

During the coming months it will be necessary to prevent the process from stopping. Already under the Finnish Presidency it was decided to at least open one chapter - on enterprise and industrial policy - at the

beginning of 2007. In the meantime, the EU has announced to be more engaged in the Cyprus conflict and to keep its promise of reducing the isolation of Northern Cyprus and of disbursing the agreed funds to the

Turkish part of the island. There is also agreement on starting a new attempt to solve the issue with mediation by the United Nations.

However, it is also up to Turkey not to let the reform process slow down and to stick to its obligations in the framework of accession negotiations. This will not be an easy task since support for a Turkish membership in

the EU has declined in Europe and likewise in Turkey. On the other hand, political life in Turkey in 2007 will be dominated by the presidential elections in May and the elections for the Great Turkish National Assembly in

November.

It is widely known that the CDU/CSU is quite sceptical towards the full membership of Turkey in the EU. Nonetheless, the current government sticks to the agreements concluded by the Schröder government and supports the negotiation process. Chancellor Merkel also stressed this during her last visit to Turkey in October 2006: "pacta sunt servanda".

The deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU faction in the German Bundestag, Dr. Andreas Schockenhoff, underlined on 5 February

2007 in Ankara: "We have a substantial interest that Turkey continues its reform process - accession negotiations are a catalyst for doing so! No one intends to end the accession negotiations, their continuation is in the

European interest. No one places additional stones on Turkey's way."

(By Jan Senkyr, Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Ankara. in: ZEI EU-Turkey Monitory, March 2007 (Zentrum für Europäische Integrationsforschung Center for European Integration Studies, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn)

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