Examination of Witness (Questions 80 -
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
80. Can I temper the optimism. In the event
that it proved impossible to gain a settlement and the Republic
of Cyprus proceeded to accede to the EU independently, what impact
do you believe that would have on Turkey's foreign policy?
(Mr Leigh) Again, at this stage, I do not think it
very appropriate to speculate in any detail as to the consequences
of failure. I think each one of us could make our own calculations
and our own scenarios as to what would take place. I think what
one can say is that a Cyprus settlement would be extremely positive
in the development of EU-Turkey relations. One might state that
it is a necessary condition; indeed, it is a short-term priority
under the enhanced political dialogue which is part of the accession
partnership. So clearly this is an issue where progress and indeed
success has been identified by the EU as a condition for further
81. A pre-condition perhaps.
(Mr Leigh) We are already involved in the process.
But rather than wonder what would be the consequence of a negative
outcome, I think one can say that a positive outcome would have
a very positive effect on EU-Turkish relations. In the absence
of a settlement, we would be in a new situation where all parties
would have to reflect, consider the situation and decide on the
most appropriate course of action. But now in February of this
year, the parties having chosen the date of June as their goal
for a settlement, it is unwise to speculate in public beyond our
own perhaps personal calculations as to what we think might happen.
I think all efforts should be in reinforcing their efforts to
reach a solution.
82. What would you say to me, as an extreme
cynic from the Turkish side who came to you and said, "We
have wanted to be members of the EU since 1999very happy
to have Turkey as a key member of NATO, very happy for the Europeans
to use Turkey as a bridge, even though Turkey does not want to
be that bridge and has been looking to the west quite consistently.
What the Commission and the rest of the EU is worried about is
having a Member State coming in whose population certainly will
be the largest, the system of qualifying by majority voting will
suddenly come in as the key player, and, if we continue the current
system, would actually have the largest voting weight." Has
the Commission given any thought as to what the dynamics would
be, and the whole structures of how the EU organises itself, once
Turkey would be a full member and what that would mean for the
workings of the EU?
(Mr Leigh) Yes, indeed, this kind of question obviously
is raised and is present in people's minds. When you consider
some of the key policies of the European Union, how they might
be applied in Turkey, this does raise the kind of question that
you are mentioning. But I would always reply "Give us a chance
and take us at our word". I mean, one could well speculate
along those linesand indeed they are questions that many
people ask themselveshowever that has not prevented the
governments of the 15 Member States again and again, and most
recently and in a most forthcoming way at Laeken, looking forward
to the prospect for Turkey's membership. If you look at the conclusions
of successive European Councils from Helsinki onwards, this has
been the position taken by our Heads of State and Government.
Therefore, whatever one's views on these issues and how it might
work out eventually: "Take us at our word, do not challenge
our sincerity, look rather at our deeds and what we are doing
to implement the commitments taken at Helsinki and you will see
that we are, indeed, proceeding with Turkey along the same lines
as other candidates." What will be the eventual outcome,
nobody knows. It is clear that we are going towards an enlargement
now, with up to 10 countries, which will take the EU population
up to something like 500 million already. There are two other
candidates waiting in the wings, as the Chairman pointed out at
the beginning, Romania and Bulgaria, and there may be other candidates.
We are moving towards a European Union that may have something
like 30 members in the course of the next decade. Each of us can
form our own judgments about the feasibility of further enlargement
beyond those candidates already in the pipeline. Turkey has been
acknowledged as a candidate, a pre-accession strategy is in place,
we are trying to bring Turkey into the full panoply of pre-accession
instruments, of community programmes, education programmes and
all the rest. In other words, we are taking this candidacy very
seriously. I think there would be no reason to doubt on the part
of anybody in Turkey who is familiar with the details of the preparations
for membership, that the EU is being true to its word on this
issue. The eventual outcome? I do not have a crystal ball. But
progress so far would satisfy an objective Turkish observer that
we are treating them on the same basis as the other candidates,
mutatis mutandis. Clearly the challenges are also particularly
great. In the political area to which I have referred; you still
have a very large part of the population involved in agriculture,
you still have major regional disparities, you have the size of
the population, there are major challenges along the road in preparing
Turkey for membership which I would be the last person to minimise,
but all of these have been formulated in terms of specific priorities,
action programmes, ways and means to tackle these issues, and
therefore I do not think there is any reason to be sceptical as
to the feasibility of this project. As to the timing and how it
might fit in eventually, the kind of resources that might be necessary
eventually to make a success of it, these are issues that one
would have to look at as we make progress. But, looking at the
record since Helsinki, I would say that guarded optimism as to
the progress made is probably the right approach.
83. You have spoken about action programmes
and legal obligations. There is also what is happening on the
ground. How ready equipped is the Commission to look at what is
happening on the ground rather than to examine aspirations and
(Mr Leigh) I think you have put your finger really
on the crucial issue. It is all very well to adopt accession partnerships
and national programmes for the adoption of the Acquis. It is
also all very well to adopt constitutional amendments and even
legal changes, but the crucial question is how these are felt
by the ordinary citizen of Turkey and whether there is any real
improvement both economically and politically.
84. How do you monitor that?
(Mr Leigh) We monitor it very closely in conjunction
with the Member States. In Ankara we meet together with the Member
States, all of whom are also following these matters very closely.
We are also in touch with the Council of Europe and with non-governmental
organisations. In particular, this comes together in our annual
exercise of the regular report, which, in all modesty, I think
one can say is a sort of state of the art in terms of a snapshot
of where things stand in Turkey at any given moment, and there
the picture is very mixed indeed. The main problem is one of implementation
and enforcement and a real change, as you say, in the situation
on the ground. Beyond the kind of changes in law and in the constitution,
clearly there has to be a change in the conceptual approach, in
mind set, on the part of judges, of prosecutors, of the police
of the military, so that these legal changes are actually translated
into improvements in conditions for ordinary citizens. There I
regret that progress is a little slower than we might hope.
85. What expectations do you have, for example,
on the use of a Kurdish language in the education system?
(Mr Leigh) This is one of the priorities under the
accession partnership where we are looking for real improvements
and where the changes in the constitutional amendments and the
recent legislative package are inadequate from our point of view.
It is our view that the Turkish authorities could well afford
to make changes and to be more open as to the use of languages
other than Turkish in education, and particularly in broadcasting,
without calling into question the security of the State, which
is their main pre-occupation.
86. You mentioned earlier the special place
of the Turkish armed forces in the political system as guardians
of the integrity of the nation with general popular approval.
Does the Commission have any direct contact with the military
or with the ministry of the interior?
(Mr Leigh) With the ministry of the interior, yes;
with the military, no.
87. Given the special place of the military
in the political structure, is that wise?
(Mr Leigh) Turkey is a country where there are the
normal democratic structures of government: the parliament, the
government, the judiciary. They also have the National Security
Council, which brings together both civilian and military leaders,
which has an advisory role, and where we hope in the future the
role will become, as it were, increasingly advisory, where we
have nothing against, in principle, informal contacts with, for
example, civilian administrative staff working on the National
Security Council but, given the decision-making structure of the
country and its own constitutional structures, I think it is most
appropriate for the Commission to have contacts with the government,
with the parliament, with the judiciary while being aware of the
context in which this democratic system is functioning.
88. Mr Leigh, you have been helpful to the Committee.
Thank you very much indeed.
(Mr Leigh) Thank you very much indeed.