Examination of Witness (Questions 60 -
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
60. Are you satisfied that the financial assistance
which is offered by the Union is sufficient?
(Mr Leigh) This is another bone of contention between
the EU and Turkey because the Turks consider that it is not sufficient.
61. Presumably because they compare the sums
available to them with the sums which have been made available
to Eastern European countries.
(Mr Leigh) Exactly.
62. How big is the disparity?
(Mr Leigh) The figure for grant assistance post-Helsinki
is something of the order of
180 million euro a year.
63. For Turkey.
(Mr Leigh) For Turkey.
64. How does that compare with, say, grants
available to Eastern European countries?
(Mr Leigh) If you take a country you mentioned earlier,
Romania, the amount is more than twice as much for Romania under
the Phare Programme, ISPA and SAPARD taken together. So it is
definitely the case that the countries in Central and Eastern
Europe are getting more grant assistance than Turkey is. To complete
the picture, one has to say that Turkey also has access to five
facilities of the European Investment Bank and was able last year
to receive disbursements from the EIB in the order of
400 million euros, which is quite considerable, in
addition to the grant assistance.
65. Other applicant countries also have access
to the EIB, do they?
(Mr Leigh) I think one has to see Turkey at the beginning
of this process. Turkey, in a way, is in the same position that
some of the east European countries were at the beginning of their
pre-accession strategy. I mean, we have only just adopted last
year the instruments that the east European countries have enjoyed
for the last five, six, seven years, depending on which country
we are talking about. For example, one of the main principles
of our financial cooperation is decentralisation; that is to say
the candidate country itself is expected to implement a lot of
the aid programmes, for example by launching tendering procedures
for projects and so on. For this they need to put into place certain
administrative structures in order to be able to absorb the assistance
properly; for example, a central financing and co-ordinating unit
(CFCU as we call it in our jargon) which launches tenders; they
need to have a national authorising officer for aid programmes;
they need to have an aid co-ordinator. The east Europeans have
had in place these administrative structures for absorbing assistance
from us for many years now. The Turks are only just beginning
to put this into place.
66. As they put those administrative structures
in place, is the EU prepared to increase the financial resources
(Mr Leigh) You know that as far as the financial resources
are concerned we are subject to the financial perspectives agreed
by the Member States for the period through to 2006. For the moment,
no additional resources have been foreseen for Turkey. We depend
mainly on the Meda funds for the Mediterranean countries to assist
Turkey and there are now many additional calls on these funds.
So we stand by our commitment.
67. But you are not prepared to provide additional
(Mr Leigh) The line that we take with Turkey is: Let
us make a success of the funds that we have, which until now have
been absorbed very slowly indeed, let us see that Turkey is able
to come up with good projects designed to meet specific targets
related to the Acquis, let us have a year's experience in our
programming successfully and implementing projects, and then we
will see. My own view is that it is likely that when the first
enlargement takes place, and if we have had a positive record
of aid absorption with Turkey in the intermediate period, that
the Member States might then be open to consider possible increased
resources for Turkey. But I think a good track record in using
existing resources is perhaps the most persuasive argument in
favour of more assistance.
68. Can I come back, Chairman, on something
that you said, Mr Leigh. You said "Eastern European countries".
Turkey is now in the position that many of the Eastern European
countries were five or six years ago, yet Turkey has been trying
to join the EU since 1959. Why is it so far behind? Is there not
any resentment in Turkey that countries that were, 12-15 years
ago, communist countries have now overtaken them in terms of their
preparedness to join the EU?
(Mr Leigh) Turkey was recognised as a candidate for
EU membership in the combined judgment of our Member States, in
whose hands we are, in December 1999 at the Helsinki European
Council, scarcely more than two years ago. So in fact the period
for preparing Turkey for membership along the lines of the other
applicant countries is now scarcely more than two years old. Having
been involved in this enlargement business in the Commission myself
since 1989, I think we have made far more rapid progress with
Turkey in this two year period than we did with the other candidates
earlier on. We have been able to learn from the experience of
the other candidates, but this experience is only two years old
in the case of Turkey. As to the reasons for that, you have to
go back into history, and of course there are many considerations
on the part of the different Member States as to why Turkey was
only recognised as a candidate at Helsinki in 1999, but this is
the fact of the matter.
69. In terms of capacity building, one of the
major instruments used in the Central European countries by the
United Kingdom was the Know-How Fund. There is no such fund from
the United Kingdom in respect of Turkey. What is the view of the
Commission in respect of that? Should there be one?
(Mr Leigh) I think, yes, that sort of initiative would
be very useful. We have experience in Central and Eastern Europe
that the Know-How fund has really complemented what the EU as
such has been able to do. So, by all means, I think an initiative
along those lines would be useful.
70. I want to come back to the issue of the
way that Turkey perceives the intentions of the EU. You have touched
on it earlier and I think it is quite fundamental. I would like
to know whether you believe the suspicion in Turkey that the EU
is not particularly serious. I want to know whether you feel that
has had any real impact in dragging back the progress that Turkey
might otherwise have made, or perhaps reducing the affinity element
of the quite fundamental institutional changes that the EU requires,
to meet our common principles. Has it had an impact on Turkey's
enthusiasm for its application?
(Mr Leigh) To answer your question I think it is only
fair to point to certain doubts and hesitations on both sides.
Just as in public opinion in the European Union there are different
currents of belief about Turkey as a candidate country, including
those to which the Chairman referred earlier, in Turkey as well
there are mixed opinions as to the desirability from Turkey's
own point of view of joining the European Union. At the moment
you have a coalition government with three parties whose degree
of commitment and interest in EU membership varies. You hear voices
raised in public opinion in Turkey as well, raising questions
about whether this is the right course for the country. Against
the background of public opinions which are mixed to some extent
on both sides, I think that the Turkish government and the Turkish
administration has mobilised resources and organised itself as
best it can for the time being in preparing for membership. What
one sees, in the post-Helsinki period especially, is that deputy
prime minister Yilmaz and the European secretariat under his responsibility,
of which Volkan Vural is secretary general, have given a major
push to the administration. You do see a kind of ginger group
amongst these individuals in pressing the different ministries
and organisations in Turkey to speed up their efforts. So I think
you have a kind of hard core of senior administrators, of co-ordinators
among the different ministries and one or two prominent figures
at political level who are very committed to this process, backed
up by academic, media and business circles, and they are the pressure
group, if you like, in favour of speeding up preparations for
membership and doing the maximum, but they find themselves face
to face with others who are more doubtful or more hesitant. Therefore
I think it is a continuous effort for those in Turkey who see
this as a priority to persuade some of their compatriots to move
in this direction. Indeed, those who are hesitant in Turkey would
tend to cite voices in the European Union who are sceptical as
proof, so to speak, that the EU is not sincere.
71. This hesitancy, would it be in any way linked
to a fearhowever unjust, nevertheless a fearthat
entry into the EU would encourage greater regionalisation and
devolution and therefore might threaten the sanctity of the Republic
of Turkey's bordersand I am thinking particularly of south-east
Turkey. Is there a concern that this may encourage this devolution
which could in the event lead to the borders of Turkey changing?
(Mr Leigh) I think that the predominant concernand
this is really speculation, I am seeing it from a distanceI
mean, one in a way should have a Turkish witnessI think
the main grounds for hesitation among those who do so, is their
own belief that certain aspects of the Kemalist tradition may
not be compatible with EU membership and they themselves are not
ready to make this sacrifice. In particular, I would say, the
question of civilian control of the military. The military in
Turkey are a very prestigious institution and many in Turkey look
to the military as the final guarantee of the territorial integrity
of the country and of the secular Kemalist tradition. Of course
civilian control of the military is one of the principles of western
democracy and it is among the priorities for Turkey to prepare
for membership. It must be said that there are those in Turkey
who think that Turkey is not perhaps ripe for this or that it
is so important to maintain the ultimate safeguard in the form
of the military that it might be paying too high a price for Turkey
to conform with our political criteria. This is not majority sentiment.
You are asking me, in a way, to second-guess the views of those
who are sceptical and I think this kind of consideration is in
their minds. But, to counterbalance that, one does have to see
that in public opinion polls, and certainly in business circles
(if you look at the statements of the very strong business representatives
Tusiad, IKV and others), the media, academialet us say
informed public opinion, as well as a majority backing for the
government in the parliamentthese doubts and hesitations
are not the ones that win the day.
Chairman: Thank you. That is very interesting.
72. What I want to ask refers now to Cyprus.
The EU has more or less said that the Republic of Cyprus will
join the EU even if the dispute with Turkey is not resolved. What
incentive is the EU giving to the Greeks to resolve their dispute
(Mr Leigh) Perhaps I might begin by briefly recalling
that the position you have referred to was part of the same conclusions
of the European Council of Helsinki which decided on Turkey's
candidacy. One recalls the conditions in which that decision was
taken. It is often said amongst Turkish Cypriots and Turks that
the Greeks and the Greek Cypriots do not have this incentive for
the reason you have given. I can only say that the declarations
of the Greek foreign minister Papandreouand not only his
declarations but his actsand particularly those of President
Clerides most recently in Cyprus, give every indication that the
Greek Cypriots are indeed very serious in seeking a solution.
If you ask why this isand, again, perhaps you should have
a Greek Cypriot witness rather than a Commission witnessI
think that the Greek Cypriots are aware that it is more desirable
for them to enter the EU without a running conflict. We have always
said that we wanted to export stability rather than import instability,
and they do not want to be the ones, as it were, to import instability.
It is also pretty well understood that as part of any Cyprus settlement
there is likely to be a territorial readjustmentthis is
one of the chapters from which the Greek Cypriots will benefitand,
above all, the Greek Cypriots say that in terms of their own feelings
of security they will not feel secure as long as there are 30,000
Turkish troops on the island and clearly the question of security
and new security arrangements will be part of any settlement.
Therefore, if you put the question to a Greek Cypriot I think
you would get this kind of answer: Let the facts speak for themselves:
President Clerides' commitment and efforts to reach a solution,
and, underlying that, the kind of considerations I have just mentioned
show why, notwithstanding the EU's commitment to the accession
of the Republic of Cyprus even in the absence of the settlement,
there are still strong incentives to reach a settlement for the
government of the Republic of Cyprus.
73. Assuming that there is a settlement of the
dispute before or immediately after accession, do you think that
Northern Cyprus is ready to accede?
(Mr Leigh) We have covered the situation in the northern
part of the island in our most recent report published in November
last year. It is clear that the northern part of the island is
lagging behind very significantly in terms of economic development,
where the GDP per capita is only something like 20 per cent of
the EU average whereas in the part of the island controlled by
the government of the Republic of Cyprus the GDP per capita is
up to four times as much, depending on how you measure it. It
is also clear that the northern part of the island has lagged
behind in terms of direct foreign investment, institution building
and many of the other features necessary to function as part of
the European Union. Therefore, in the event of a settlement, a
special effort will have to be made to overcome regional disparities.
This is quite clear.
74. Can I be clear on something you said. I
think you just said that there is up to a 20 fold difference between
northern and southern Cyprus.
(Mr Leigh) Four fold.
75. You said northern Cyprus was 20 per cent
of the EU average, one-fifth, but that the Republic of Cyprus
is up to four times greater than the EU average GDP.
(Mr Leigh) No, 80 per cent of the EU average GDP,
some four times higher than the north.
76. I am sorry.
(Mr Leigh) So these regional disparities are very
77. That is still a huge disparity.
(Mr Leigh) It is, but I think one has to be aware
that immediately following a settlement the situation in the north
would change very significantly. To begin with, the judgment of
the European Court of Justice, which has made it difficult for
the north to export some of its products, would become moot upon
a settlement. The north would open up to investment. Its tourist
industry, which is scarcely developed for the time being, has
enormous potential, plus the Commission, in its recent information
note to the Council on the costs of enlargement, has pencilled
in figures for support for the north following a settlement and
following accession which is very significant indeed, reaching
100 million a year by 2006. I also think it quite
likely that following a settlement the Member States would be
willing to support a kind of pre-accession programme for the north
specially designed. When you consider the population of the northand
there are different calculations, but if you take together the
Turkish Cypriots as well as the population that has come from
Anatolia over the last few yearswe are talking about a
population of a maximum of some 200,000 and, even though the north
is much less developed than the government-controlled areas, the
order of magnitude is one that can be coped with.
78. Finally, can I ask you how close you think
they are to a settlement of the dispute?
(Mr Leigh) I was in Cyprus last week and I had an
opportunity to talk with the different actors involved and they
are coming to the end of the first phase of these talks in which
they have reviewed the four main chapters for a settlement. My
impression is that until now they have not got into the substance
of the negotiation; they have simply reviewed the respective positions
of the two sides. But even this is considerable progress: the
fact that Mr Denktash and Mr Clerides are meeting three times
a week in the presence of the United Nations, have reviewed all
the issues and are committed to seeking a settlement by June of
this year is enormous progress compared with the past. Whether
they will succeed is another matter. We very much insist that
the parties themselves have ownership of the process and in the
Commission we do not seek to become involved; on the other hand,
we are there to back up and help their efforts. I mean, it really
is difficult to say at this point, but, coming back to perhaps
the main theme for your hearing, I believe that strong, continued
support from Turkey for a positive position by the Turkish Cypriot
leader Mr Denktash is essential for further progress, just as
support from Greece for efforts to reach a settlement is also
79. That sounds very optimistic.
(Mr Leigh) Guarded optimism.