The Republic of Turkey was founded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a military hero, in 1923. His aim was to transform Turkey into a modern, secular state, which could compare with Western European nations in terms of military and economic strength. Today, Turkey is a member of almost every Western European club. It joined NATO in 1952; the Council of Europe in 1949; and became a full candidate for European Union membership in 1999.
In elections in November 2002, only the conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the centre-left Republican People's Party (CHP) crossed the 10% threshold needed to return MPs to parliament, with 34% and 19% of the vote respectively. Since then however ANAP, DYP, SHP, HYP have acquired parliamentary representation following defections from AKP and CHP.
Turkey is one of the world's most rapidly industrialising markets. It is also a major trading partner of the UK. Total bilateral trade reached £4.4 bn in 2003.
The UK is the 5th largest investor in Turkey. British firms cover a wide range of sectors, with over 41 British companies investing. Major British companies such as BP, Shell, Unilever (UK), HSBC, Tesco, Cadbury Schweppes, BAT, Arcadia and Lucas Industries are well established.
Turkey was the second country to sign a European association agreement as long ago as 1963. This provided for the eventual establishment of an EC/Turkey Customs union, which finally came into effect on 1 January 1996. The agreement also provided for the possibility of Turkey's eventual EC accession. Turkey formally applied for membership in 1987. The European Commission recommended against that application in 1989 because of the need for further political and economic reform in Turkey and the need for the existing Community to focus its energy on achieving the 1992 deadline for the completion of the Single Market. Nonetheless, the Commission confirmed Turkey's eligibility for membership although Turkey's political and economic instability, together with the Greek/Turkish disputes, made talk of EU membership unrealistic during most of the 1990s. It was not until 1999 that the Helsinki European Council formally accepted Turkey as a candidate. The 2002 Copenhagen European Council concluded that if, on the basis of a report and recommendation from the Commission, it was decided at the European Council of December 2004 that Turkey had fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria (a set of basic standards covering democracy, human rights and respect for minorities; and the criteria against which a candidate's suitability to join the Union is judged), accession negotiations would be opened without delay.
The 2004 December European Council agreed to open EU accession negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005, endorsing the European Commission's view that Turkey had sufficiently fulfilled the Copenhagen political criteria. The negotiations opened as planned on 3 October and were warmly welcomed by the UK.
The opening of negotations was possible because the current Turkish Government and its predecessor drove forward, through 9 packages of legislative and constitutional amendments, a range of necessary reforms designed to meet the Copenhagen political criteria - including the abolition of the death penalty, new protections against torture, greater freedom of expression, and increased respect for minorities. According to the 2004 European Commission's report on Turkey's progress towards accession, these reforms have "clearly addressed major issues and highlighted a growing consensus in favour of liberal democracy". Further, the report notes that there has been "substantial institutional convergence in Turkey towards European standards".
The third iteration of Turkey's Accession Partnership with the EU is expected later this year. It sets out priorities for Turkey on meeting the Copenhagen criteria and the assistance that the EU will provide. The European Commission monitors Turkey's progress towards accession and produces a written report annually for presentation to the European Council. The Commission's 2005 report is expected in November.
The United Kingdom is strongly committed to supporting Turkey's accession to the European Union and assisting Turkey in the process of reform necessary to achieve this goal. The UK Action Plan for Turkey summarises the broad range of practical support the United Kingdom is providing over the next year to assist Turkey's efforts to prepare for EU membership.
Topographical maps of the region. Go
A guide to bays, coves, anchorages and archeological sites of South West Turkey for travellers.Go