We need to revive Helsinki spirit, Bağış says

Amid mounting concern over the pace of
European Union accession negotiations, during which several EU member
states have busied themselves laying down obstacles in Turkey’s path,
the country’s top negotiator has decided to launch a major drive to
convince friends in Europe to mount pressure on Brussels in order to
get more accession chapters open.

It was no coincidence that Egemen Bağış,
Turkey’s chief negotiator with the EU, chose Helsinki, the capital of
Finland, as a perfect venue to address the issue. “The Helsinki summit
was a crucial moment in our history,” he said to an audience at the
prestigious Finnish Institute of International Affairs on Tuesday.

was referring to the moment when Turkey was officially recognized as a
candidate country for full membership, on Dec. 12, 1999, at the
Helsinki summit of the European Council. “Helsinki had broken the
anchor-credibility dilemma,” he said, stressing that the summit marked
a clear vision for both the EU and Turkey and sparked sweeping reforms
in Turkey between 2000 and 2004.

The message he was trying to
convey was that both sides should spend political capital to revive the
stalled negotiations. “We have to re-engineer the Helsinki spirit as
soon as possible,” Bağış underlined, adding that membership would be a
win-win situation for both sides.

His message was well received
here both by the public and officials. In his meeting with Finnish
Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, Bağış asked for a speedy screening
process for chapters Turkey would very much like to see it open in the
near future. Turkey has been complaining for some time that chapters
that have already completed the screening processes have been stalled
in EU bureaucracy for political purposes.

Finland has been a
staunch supporter of Turkey’s bid to join the 27-member bloc, saying
that the country’s full membership would strengthen the EU and very
much emphasize the multicultural aspect of the union. Refusing calls
for a “privileged partnership” for Turkey, raised by France and Germany
as a halfway measure to prevent full membership, the Finnish foreign
minister coined the term “unprivileged partnership,” needed for
accession talks with the EU, signaling his country would not waver on
the full membership target for Turkey.

Although Turkey-Finland
relations remained very limited during the Cold War, they gained
momentum after the official visit of then-President of Finland Martti
Ahtisaari in 1999 to Turkey. Relations peaked during the Finnish
presidency of the European Council in 1999, when the council declared
Turkish candidacy open, giving further impetus to bilateral relations.