Another Hit to Turkey’s Bid for EU Membership

     (CN) – A 50-year-old economic treaty does not entitle Turkish nationals to enter the EU without a visa, the European high court ruled Tuesday.
     In 1963, Turkey and the European Union signed a trade and economic agreement aimed at both improving living standards and easing Turkey’s accession into the EU. The parties signed an amendment known as the “standstill clause” – which prevents member states from enacting further restrictions against Turkish nationals – in 1970.
     Leyla Demirkan, now 20, sought a visa from Germany in 2007 to visit her mother and stepfather, a German national. The EU has required Turkish citizens to obtain visas before entering Europe since 2001.
     When the German government rejected Demirkan’s application, she and her family sued on grounds that, under German law before the standstill clause, Turkish nationals were not required to obtain residence permits before entering Germany for stays of less than three months.
     A Berlin court dismissed Demirkan’s suit, stating that German law before the standstill clause did not apply to family visit permits. The court added that the clause did not give Turkish nationals the right to free movement outside of economic purposes.
     On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union agreed.
     “The court has already held that the EEC-Turkey Association pursues a solely economic purpose,” the Luxembourg-based court wrote Tuesday. “The Association Agreement and its Additional Protocol are intended essentially to promote the economic development of Turkey.”
     The court continued: “The development of economic freedoms for the purpose of bringing about freedom of movement for persons of a general nature which may be compared to that afforded to European Union citizens is not the object of the Association Agreement. Neither that agreement and its Additional Protocol nor decisions of the Association Council on the development of the Association, which concerns only freedom of movement for workers, establishes any general principle of freedom of movement of persons between Turkey and the European Union. Furthermore, the Association Agreement guarantees the enjoyment of certain rights only within the territory of the host Member State.”
     In fact, the standstill clause does not give even cross-border workers the right to residence permits – or any rights at all, the court noted.
     “There is nothing to indicate that the contracting parties to the Association Agreement and the Additional Protocol envisaged, when signing those documents, freedom of provision of services as including passive freedom of provision of services,” the court wrote.
     Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported that Turkey wants the EU to ease restrictions on visa procedures, but negotiations stalled after European nations demanded language authorizing the deportation of illegal Turkish immigrants.
     Meanwhile, Turkey’s chief negotiator to the EU acknowledged last week that his country would likely never be admitted to the European community. According to a Reuters report , Germany and France have long battled allowing the largely Muslim country in – fearing that its cultural differences and 76 million citizens will be too difficult to integrate.
     Accession talks begun in 2005 broke down after Turkey refused EU demands to open its ports to planes and ships from Cypress, an EU member. For its part, the EU declined Turkey’s request to ease the international isolation of the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cypress, established in response to a 1974 coup engineered by Greece to annex the Mediterranean island.

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