Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Turkey, the Western Balkans and the membership in a Communist Party

euinside, January 12, 2010

Those were the main issues raised during the first 2 hours of the hearing of the Commissioner-designate for enlargement and Neighbourhood policy, the Czech Stefan Fuele. The questions, related to the communist past of the Czech candidate as a member of the Czechoslovakian Communist party before 1989 as well as this education in Moscow were raised in the context of the Neighbourhood Policy which is now in one field with enlargement. As part of this Policy is the Eastern Partnership Initiative, directed predominantly to the Caucasus nations and against which Russia has some reserves.

Stefan Fuele said though that this Policy does not prevent the development of good partnership relations with Russia. He passed in silence all hints and remarks regarding his past.

The second large group of questions was related to Turkey's membership in the EU. One of them was asked by the Bulgarian MEP Metin Kazak about the customs agreement with Turkey. The reply of the candidate was that the process of creation of a customs union with Turkey needs to be unblocked, however this would depend on many other conditions, put forward in the overall accession process. There were questions about human rights violations in Turkey, about the rights of the different religious communities and the non-solving of the conflict with Cyprus. To all of them Stefan Fuele answered confidently that in the last months and years Turkey has shown larger responsibility to talk openly on issues which were before that unthinkable to even raise.

"I respect Turkey's progress and the serious commitment of the Turkish authorities for a rapprochement with the EU. This is an important partner, important part of the dialogue of civilizations, important part in the field of energy. That is why we are maintaining an active dialogue and that is why we want to participate in a dialogue with Turkey based on accession negotiations. This is our strongest tool in our hands", the candidate added.

Mr. Fuele also said that he supported the full European integration of the Western Balkans to the EU, including Kosovo. Furthermore, he added that he will work for a non-visa regime for the Kosovars too but taking into account the European security measures.

Most questions show that the MEPs are also not aware of the consequences of the Lisbon Treaty. Not only Stefan Fuele but also the other commissioners under the auspices of the high representative for external relations Catherine Ashton, were throughly asked about their future relations with Lady Ashton and how they would solve any issues that might rise among them. So far, although quite a lot of things are unclear, we could say that the commissioners in question - enlargement, development and international cooperation would be something like deputy foreign ministers.

With regard to Karel de Gucht - trade - this field will be independent from the external policy but requires some coordination with the foreign minister Catherine Ashton. All remarks, related to the his political career in the Czech Republic before 1989 Stefan Fuele past without comment.

Catherine Ashton herself did not make it any clearer during her hearing at the Foreign Relations Committee yesterday about the coordination between her and the fields which will be under her control. The reply of Mr. Fuele was extremely short - he said that the decisions related to the common foreign policy and the field sub-policies are taken unanimously in the College of Commissioners and in many of the cases by the European Council.

The written answers of Stefan Fuele and his main priorities you can read on euinside here.