Hurriyet Daily News
June 30, 2009
ISTANBUL - Turkey on Tuesday opened negotiations on taxation reform in its long-running bid to join the European Union, and urged the 27-member bloc to drop political considerations and "play the game by its rules."
At membership talks in Brussels, senior EU and Turkish officials opened talks on taxation, one of the 35 policy negotiating areas -- or chapters -- all would-be members have to complete prior to joining.
Ankara has now formally opened 11 chapters. Eight other chapters have been frozen since 2006 due to a customs dispute with Greek Cypriots.
France is blocking another five chapters directly linked to EU membership.
Turkey's European affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, told a news conference that Ankara was aware of its responsibilities in the process and urged the EU to respect its obligations.
"Turkey is prepared to play the game by its rules, but when new rules are introduced to the game while the game is going on, this creates reaction," he was quoted by AFP as saying.
"We expect the EU to abide by its commitments for a fair and sustainable negotiation process and reaffirm its political will to help further our objectives," he said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, along with their Austrian colleagues, favor some kind of special relationship with Turkey which falls short of full membership.
"Turkey expects to join the EU as an equal member with all the rights and obligations this will imply," Bagis said.
Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, told the conference the opened chapter is "an important chapter and a significant one on Turkey's path towards the European Union."
But he warned: "There are several benchmarks that need to be met before chapter 16 can be provisionally closed."
Kohout said Turkey would have to align its laws with EU standards on value-added tax and excise duties, and eliminate "discriminatory" levies on alcohol and imported tobacco.