International Information Centre for Balkan Studies

EU, Turkey to update customs union




The EU and Turkey agreed to update a 20-year-old customs union on Tuesday (12.05.2015), while Brussels promised to address Ankara's concerns about a huge European trade deal with the United States.

Turkey is a long-standing candidate for EU membership, beginning so-called accession talks in 2005, but the process has been bogged down for years amid opposition from some key EU states.

The customs union was set up in 1995 as a stepping stone to EU accession. Turkey complains it is now outdated.

In the talks, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem and Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci agreed to a roadmap to expand the customs union, broadening it to include services, government contracts and most agricultural goods.

"Turkey has not given up on becoming a full member of the EU and at the end of this process it will be nearer," said Zeybekci.

The minister's biggest worry is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the huge free trade pact being negotiated by the US and the EU that would create the world's biggest market.

"Turkey would like to be in the league of the world economic powers, therefore Turkey would very much like to take part in the TTIP process," Zeybekci said.

Malmstroem said Brussels was committed to bringing the 20-year-old customs agreement "into the 21st century".

"This initiative will boost EU-Turkey commercial relations," she said.

Malmstroem also promised the EU would keep Turkey informed about its TTIP negotiations but stressed that Ankara could not be involved in the discussions until after Washington and Brussels end what has proven to be very tough negotiations.

"We have been very careful .. to inform Turkey of every stage in negotiations (with the US)," she said.

"When the agreement is done Turkey can lock into that," she added.

Source: Turkish media





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