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EU-Turkey, a long and winding road


1963: the beginning of the story

Starting from the 19th century Atatürk revolution (1), Turkey began following the Western culture and habits, reproducing it to the national economic, political and social spheres: the alphabet was changed from Arabic to Latin characters; Islamic centres were banned, with the aim to dismantle the connection between political power and religion; women conquered the right of vote much earlier than in many Western countries (1934) and even many signs of distinction in the daily life were prohibited, such as the veil for women, the traditional fez-hat for men and moustaches for soldiers. Turkey has then been transforming into the only pluralist secular democracy in the Moslem world and its ruling class has always worked to maintain good relations with European countries.

Not by chance, Turkey is founding member of the United Nations, member of NATO, Council of Europe and OECD. During the Cold War, Turkey was a key part of the Western alliance in defence of our values of freedom, democracy and human rights.

In 1959, one year after the creation of the European Economic Community (EEC), Turkey applied to join. The EEC’s response was to propose the establishment of an association between the parties, aiming at securing Turkey’s full membership in the EEC, passing by the establishment of a CU, instrument of further integration: the Ankara Agreement was signed in 1963 and provided for free circulation of goods, natural persons, services and capital between the parties. Turkey had no word on the Community decision-making process and couldn’t appeal to the European Court of Justice for dispute settlement. The benefits of such agreement were immediately visible: the Community’s share in Turkish imports rose from 29% in 1963 to 42% in 1972.

In November 1970, an additional protocol on the requisites of the CU was signed, calling for the abolishment of tariffs and quantitative barriers on imports from both parties as well

as the harmonization of the Turkish legislation with that of the EEC in economic matters and free circulation of natural persons.

In September 1980, the military intervention froze the relationship between the parties: starting from January though, even the military junta shifted its economic policy from an autarchic import-substitution model and opened its economy to the operation of market forces.


1 Atatürk was the first President of the Republic of Turkey. Born in 1881 in Salonika (actual Thessaloniki) in what was then the Ottoman Empire, he served against the Italians in Libya and in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). In 1919, Atatürk began a nationalist revolution in Anatolia, focused on resisting attempts to seize part of the country by the victorious Allies, Greeks in the first place. In 1923, Turkey became a secular republic and Atatürk its President.

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