The Dutch EU presidency seems to be putting the finishing touches to the summit preparations for 15/16 December. One of the major items on the agenda: decision time on opening negotiations with Ankara about Turkey’s EU membership.
According to the Financial Times today the draft document circulated by the Dutch government to other EU governments contains two key recommendations, namely that:
talks can be concluded only after a new EU long-term budget is agreed ?for the period from 2014, which should entail a structural reform of funding and expenditure of the EU?.
the EU should consider ?permanent safeguard clauses, notably in the area of the free movement of persons?.
Source Financial Times
The first of these conditions is hardly unexpected given the scale of Turkish agriculture, and anyway the long-term budget structure would be an issue even without Turkish accession.
The second might be regarded as much more problematic. Certainly it will be seen in Ankara as creating a kind of second class citizenship, and certainly it could be seen as a sop to those who claim to fear a cultural invasion. There has, of course, already been a precedent in this area in relation to the freedom of movement of citizens of the recent east European accession countries. The FT suggests that the terms of the condition will be that the freedom of movement “safeguards” could be triggered if there was a serious risk of labour market disruption in an EU member state. Since, come 2014, I believe that the principal labour market disruptions the EU member states will be facing will come from shortages of young workers, and since I doubt that by this time Turkey will still be an important origin source of would be migrants (since its own demography is stabilising), I think this safeguard will remain hollow. As such, my feeling is that if this kind of condition is what is necessary to get the negotiations rolling, then better accept it and get on with things.
Perhaps it should be added that these ‘conditions’ are in addition to the ongoing reform process being monitored by the Commission (which has already given a green light to opening negotiations), a reform process which we have already discussed at Afoe on numerous occassions.