Alternative approach to CU modernization
Considering the fractious EU–Turkey relationship, the two partners should consider a different negotiating strategy to bypass the current stalemate over the upgrade of the CU.
A new strategy would replace the existing comprehensive approach to amending the CU with a three-pronged process, as proposed below. In the first instance, the EU and Turkey should begin negotiations by concentrating on a limited number of key objectives to improve the operation of the CU, in order to focus energy and prioritize, rather than attempting to deal with all aspects simultaneously.
A new negotiating strategy would replace the existing comprehensive approach to amending the CU with a three-pronged process
The EU’s key objective is the creation of a robust DSM, which can press Turkey to implement the relevant new acquis conditions and boost cooperation on European Commission screening of Turkish legislation. Turkey’s priorities are guaranteeing the applicability of EU FTAs, enhancing its consultative role in setting EU trade policy, and better coordination between EU and Turkish customs officials at the borders with Bulgaria and Greece. These issues should form the basis of the initial phase of negotiations.
Second, both parties should agree in the legal text of the CU agreement the objectives of progressively liberalizing services, right of establishment, public procurement and agriculture to create the framework for agreeing sectoral deals over the course of time.
Third, the two stages should be decoupled from each other to differentiate this method from the present comprehensive approach to reforming the CU.
As part of this new strategy, the EU should consider bolder and more ambitious end-goals on services, right of establishment, public procurement and agriculture than those in the DCFTA with Ukraine or any other FTA. This would entail, for instance, going beyond the selective approach in extending the CU to services; liberalization should not only cover certain services regulated by EU legislative instruments. In practice, the EU should include those governed primarily by domestic law, such as legal and accounting services, where EU law permits the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the EU member states. This would serve to raise ambitions for the long term, but not create insurmountable challenges in the short term.
Such an alternative strategy, although more gradual and open-ended, has the potential to overcome the current deadlock in negotiations. It could also enable sector-by-sector arrangements to be reached as more favourable circumstances develop in the future. At the same time, it indirectly improves Turkey’s long-term EU accession prospects by integrating Turkey more tightly into the EU single market and forcing the country to implement the bulk of the EU acquis.
Turkey is not a typical third country. After all, it is officially a candidate for EU accession, however remote the prospects may be at present; it has been in a one-sided CU for longer than two decades; it has been a NATO member since 1952; it remains central to managing the flow of migrants and refugees to Europe; and it acts as a strategic buffer between Europe and the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Also, there are significant Turkish diasporas residing in several European countries, notably in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.
Importantly, Turkey’s cooperation is critical to European stability and security, as was vividly demonstrated by the 2015 Syrian migration crisis. Given that the EU is not currently able to offer a credible accession perspective, anchoring Turkey’s economy in Europe is the best tool available to influence the country towards greater democracy, human rights and a rule-based liberal market economy.