José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, visited İstanbul Bilgi University on 11 April 2008

Winning Hearts and Minds: The EU/Turkey Partnership

full text of the speech

Mr. Rector,
Mr. Chairman of the Board of Advisors,
My Dear Colleague of the Commission Olli Rehn,
Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
Dear Students,
Dear Friends,

I am honoured to be here today to address this distinguished audience, in this magnificent setting of Bilgi University and Santralistanbul. This is indeed a very cosmopolitan city, Istanbul. Great demonstration of openness and I see that you are here launching this platform for global challenges. In this world more and more globalised, openness is the key. It is important to understand that we have global challenges and for those global challenges we need to find global answers. It is not with narrow views; it is in the contrary with an open mind that we can win this battle of global challenges.
Bilgi is a relatively young University. Yet it has already made its mark, and become one of the finest in the country. Bilgi maintains deep roots in the rich past of your country, while at the same time looking forward. Bilgi University is known for promoting an open intellectual debate on Turkish society and on what lies in the future. It must be a pleasure to be a student at Bilgi, especially on the Santralistanbul campus, a superb example of post-industrial urban renewal.
And in fact I have seen the mission statement of your university; I was really impressed to see your commitment to openness, to values of free thinking and to the values of modernity. I will say that they are more necessary than ever in a world where we are seeing fundamentalism, extreme nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and all kinds of populism that is indeed a threat to the values of freedom, solidarity and peace. It is precisely these values that I like to see and look at the European Union.
Last year, we have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the European Union. The EU is also a relatively young political actor on the international stage. Yet, its impressive success of the European Union. Through deep integration between nation-states, we have overcome a past of war and mutual hatred. Thanks to the long-term vision of our founding fathers like Robert Schumann, Konrad Adenauer, Jean Monnet, Alcide de Gasperi, many others we have achieved a new and better European political order based on reconciliation, peace, democracy, freedom.
We are proud of our success.
And we are building on them for the future.
The European Union is the best answer to the challenges of the 21st century when you consider what answer should the Europeans have for this. In this globalised world, we are seeing global challenges like climate change, security or threats to security, international terrorism, pandemics, problems of energy security. And it is quite obvious that even the biggest member states in Europe alone, they do not have the instruments, the means to face these challenges alone. But together, together we can make a difference, not only for Europe, but also for the world, giving a contribution to defend our interest together but also to promote our common values in the larger stage. And I think we can be proud of the European Union because it has been a successful example of democratic governance in the globalisation process.
Look at enlargement for instance. The European Community started 50 years ago as 6 countries. Now we are 27 member states proud of themselves, of their respective history. Of course with patriotism but at the same time accepting that you can add to our national citizenship a common European citizenship. And that to become a member of the European Union is not reducing the capacity of our member states. On the contrary it is value added to what we can do as a single European member state.
The fact is that today the European Union is looked with much more respect because when we speak with our American friends, Russian, Chinese or Indian partners, they know that they are speaking with a group of countries that together represent the first economy of the world. In fact together the aggregated GNP of our countries is indeed superior to the one of the USA, the first by large trade partner in the world, by far the most important export power, and the first donor of development aid. So it is indeed an important economic but also political and social project
And this was done by successive enlargements. At least five waves of enlargement. And this has been compatible, this wave of enlargement with the deepening of cooperation between the European Union member states. And this indeed has helped transformation of the countries in Europe because it has helped the democratic transformation and also consolidation of democracy.
I could speak about my own country Portugal that was until 1974 a non-democratic regime. And the prospects of becoming a member of the European Union were a way of consolidating a democratic regime. What I said about Portugal I could also say about Spain or Greece or other democratic countries south of Europe. And I could also say more recently about all Central or Eastern European countries that are living through a post totalitarian system. They have looked at Europe as a way of consolidating their new democratic countries, new democratic regimes. And now you have these countries united around the values of peace, freedom and democracy. Proud to be independent like the Baltic States that some time ago were not independent countries. But now they are dependent but at the same time they are participating in a joint programme, a joint project with those values at the very heart.
Today, Turkey is an integral part of our agenda for enlargement. Our commonly shared objective is that Turkey becomes a full member of the European Union, with equal rights and equal duties like any other current member.
Many people, both in some EU member States and in Turkey, like to dwell on what goes wrong sometimes in our relationship, on the short-term hurdles and difficulties we may encounter. In the EU sometimes they may say that Turkey is not ready for membership; while many people in Turkey may say that at the end of the day the EU will not want Turkey in or that Turkey will want to stay out
To all these people, I say that our present and our future are closely intertwined. It is clear to me that Turkey and the European Union have a shared destiny. It is clear to me that it is both in the interest of EU and of Turkey to be together and share a common future.
Let me just look at three examples of close links between us.
Our economies and trade have a high degree of interdependence. Turkey and the EU have enjoyed a Customs Union since 1995. The EU is by far the most important trading partner of Turkey, while Turkey is the seventh biggest trade partner of the EU, ahead of countries such as India or Canada. In just four years, EU investment in Turkey has grown from half a billion dollars in 2002 to 15 billion in 2006. With Turkey growing at dynamic rates and expected to become one of the top 10 economies in the world by mid-century, this interdependence is bound to increase.
As regards foreign and security policies, Turkey already plays an important role side by side with the EU. Turkey enjoys fruitful relations with many countries here in the neighbourhood of Turkey. And Turkey is indeed living in a very important neighbourhood. Turkey in the Balkans, in the Middle East and in other areas plays a crucial role. The EU and Turkey cooperate to make the world more safe and secure. Turkey is a key partner for Europe on foreign and security policy not least as a member of NATO. Its responsibilities can only increase in the future, to address the challenges of our common neighbourhood.
Energy is a third example of our interdependence. Turkey is a major partner for energy supplies to Europe from Central Asia and the Middle East. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is a major step towards increasing security of supplies and mobilising Caspian oil reserves. In the light of the challenges that the European Union faces, regarding diversification and security of energy supplies, Turkey-EU co-operation is certainly set to grow further in the coming years.
These are only a few examples showing that Turkey and the EU have a mutual short and long-term geo-strategic interest in coming together. These are only some few examples. It is only together that we can engage indeed the forces of globalisation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since my predecessor Romano Prodi visited Turkey in early 2004, we have come a long way on the road to Turkish accession.
- In October 2005, EU Member States unanimously agreed to start accession negotiations with Turkey.
- In the year up to October 2006, more than 2,000 Turkish civil servants came to Brussels to discuss and analyse, with the Commission, the content of the EU legislation that Turkey will have to implement to become a Member.
- We started in-depth negotiations on six policy areas, covering sectors as important as industrial policy, statistics, financial control, health protection and trans-European networks.
- In the first months of 2008 the Turkish administration has moved forward on more chapters. This should allow us to advance further this year.
Meanwhile, the EU pre-accession programmes in Turkey have attained new records: a pipeline of active operations worth €1.5 billion in grants, to which the European Investment Bank is adding €2 to 2.5 billion of lending every year. These programmes enhance Turkey’s capabilities in all conceivable fields, from Customs modernisation to road transport standards, from food safety to waste water treatment, from human rights in the security forces to the protection of women and children. We are jointly upgrading Turkey’s policies and institutions towards EU standards and this I believe is for the good of the Turkish citizens.
This is what I call real progress.
We are not just speaking about political, vague concepts. We are speaking about realities on the ground. Same when I spoke before about 80% of the foreign investment coming to Turkey, is coming from the EU. This is not just good for business. This is employment; these are positions for work for young people that want to have a first work. So we are creating jobs in Turkey and in the European Union through our closer relation.
However, accession negotiations are not just a technical process of gradual alignment and enforcement of legislation. Negotiations are based on shared values and a common understanding of the rule of law, democracy and human rights.
For Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, it was a priority to reach the standards of what he called the "contemporary civilisation". This implied allowing all Turkish citizens to benefit from the same degree of freedom and democracy enjoyed by the citizens of the countries which now most of them form the European Union.
Turkey has come a long way and brought about a number of far-reaching reforms. These include the abolition of the death penalty, the policy of zero tolerance on torture, the measures undertaken to strengthen the civilian supremacy in the military as well as an extensive review of the Civil and Penal Codes. More recently, the Turkish Parliament adopted the new law on foundations which we believe is a step towards addressing the specific problems of non-Muslim religious communities.
We all know that a lot remains to be done for Turkey to comply fully with what we usually call European standards. Freedom of expression remains an area in which reforms are overdue. This is why I am very pleased to see that the proposal was put forward to amend article 301 of the Criminal code. On the basis of this article, hundreds of cases have been brought against Turkish citizens expressing non-violent opinions. We look forward to the adoption of the amendment in parliament and their implementation in line with European standards.
I could come up with a long list of issues on which further progress is needed for Turkey. They range from the creation of an Ombudsman, the reform of the Court of Auditors, to civil-military relations, judicial reform, it also includes cultural and minority rights, social rights including trade unions, women's and children’s rights.
I am aware that Turkey is undergoing a crucial political debate at the moment. Debates such as the one on the headscarf and secularism are for Turkish democracy to handle. The EU accession process provides of course an instinct framework for such debates. But, in more general terms, EU democratic requirements are clear enough to provide an anchor to the Turkish domestic debate. The main yardstick I think concerns tolerance for each other's beliefs and opinions.
Democracy is of course about institutions, but democracy is also a culture, the culture of tolerance, the culture of dialogue, the spirit of compromise. The need to establish platforms, platforms between different political forces in the parliament or in the society. This is the culture of democracy. Democracy is much more than a set of laws. It is a spirit. The spirit that has to be impregnated in society through the dialogue of all citizens in that society.
There is also another feature which is a part of the EU democratic tradition, and that it is precisely this need to bring a consensus. No democratic system can prosper in today’s complex and open world without a strong political debate but also with a strong political commitment to reach some points of agreement in the society. This is the way the European institutions work. Consensus and compromise are part and parcel of everyday life. Can you imagine how difficult it is to bring consensus to EU. Today we are 27 countries with 27 governments plus the regional governments, and national parliaments and sometimes regional parliaments, and the European Parliament, Council and Commission. In Commission I have the honour to preside, we have 27 members of the Commission, some are liberals, some are conservatives or Christian Democrats, some are Socialists or Social Democrats, and some have no party. Yet every Wednesday we reach a consensus, precisely because there is this culture of a compromise and a consensus. Coming from different views, but at the end reaching a decision for the sake of the common good. And this is the important thing to understand when we speak about democratic development. The need of different opinions, the need of debate, of controversy. Sometimes very very intense political debate but at the same time the need to come to a common understanding of some basic principles and values. That is why we are following with great attention and interest the debate taking place in your country.
I would say it is very important, not only for your country, for the region, for Europe and for all the world. It is very important to show that it is possible in a country with a predominantly Muslim population, to have a real democracy and to have a democratic secularism. This is very important, because it can be a great example for other parts of the world, it can be also be a great contribution for the dialogue between different political cultures and different civilizations in the world. That is why I encourage all of you that are actively participating in that debate to give this contribution to the spirit of openness and tolerance. Because this is indeed the best way to give a concrete contribution to our European, I would say, common, because I really believe it is common project.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me conclude.
Turkish accession will not be achieved in one day. It will require sometimes difficult choices and it will be sometimes a difficult journey. But we have to keep in mind the strategic objectives.
Once again, I am convinced that the EU and Turkey share a common destiny.
Our mutual duty today is continuing our engagement on these accession negotiations. The EU commitment remains strong, and I have reiterated it yesterday once again. I met the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister; I had the honour also of addressing the plenary forum of the Parliament of Turkey. That is the message I conveyed on behalf of the European Commission, and I can say also on behalf of the EU, because all the member states, even if there are sometimes different opinions, but all the member states have agreed to give a mandate to the Commission to negotiate on their behalf and to go on with those negotiations.
The need for domestic political reforms in Turkey also remains strong. Turkey will need to continue vigorously its process of internal transformation, so that Turkish citizens can fully share in the EU community of values, rights and freedoms.
At the same time, fostering the broadest possible consensus on Turkish accession among the population as a whole, both in the EU and in Turkey, this is our most challenging task ahead. I have said it yesterday in the Parliament in Ankara and I would like to repeat it today here at Bilgi University in Istanbul. This process is not just a process for the governments or for the diplomats. With all respect we may have for governments and diplomats. It is a process for you; it is a process for all the forces in our civil societies, for universities, for think tanks, for the business community, for trade unions, for NGOs. It is a process where we have to convince each other. We have to convince Turkey that it is in the interest of Turkey to become a full member of the EU. And Turkey also has to convince the EU that it is in the fundamental interest of the EU to have such a member among the current member states of the EU. So it will be a very challenging process where we need to go beyond traditional diplomacy or traditional intergovernmental relations. And I believe in the force of democracy, the force of open societies, and the force of open political debate. I know I am in a university that trusts in those values and that is why I can tell you with confidence that I am looking at the future of Turkey and the EU with a real hope that it will be a giant and common future around values of freedom, solidarity and peace.
Thank you for your attention.