By Bahattin Gonultas and Gokhan Ergocun
An international investors’ group on Thursday called on leaders in the EU to take constructive steps towards bringing Turkey closer to the bloc.
“Companies with international direct investments support Turkey’s full membership to the bloc,” Ahmet Erdem, president of the International Investors Association of Turkey (YASED), said in a statement.
“We hope that the full membership negotiation process, which has come to a halt in recent period due to various developments, will be accelerated again,” he added.
The call comes on the day of an EU leaders’ meeting that will focus on migration, defense, digitalization and foreign affairs, including EU relations with Turkey.
The EU is Turkey's fourth largest export market and Turkey is the fifth largest trading partner of the EU, Erdem said.
He said that in the first eight months of this year, $3.72 billion, which is 77 percent of the total foreign direct investment in Turkey, was invested in the country from EU countries.
Turkey's total exports in the first nine months of 2017 reached $114.66 billion while 51.6 percent of all exports were made to EU countries with an increase of 10.2 percent year-on-year, he added.
He said: "Europe-based companies also generate added-value in Turkey, provide employment, and export to all over the world from Turkey."
"We believe that the continuation of Turkey's accession negotiations to the EU will be beneficial for both sides," he said.
"In this regard, we also find it necessary that the Customs Union Agreement should be updated in line with the requirements of today," he added.
Turkey applied for membership in the European Economic Community (a precursor to the EU) in 1987. It became eligible for EU membership in 1997 and accession talks began in 2005.
To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.
In the accession negotiations, 16 of 35 chapters have opened and only one has been temporarily closed, Erdem said.
Last June, the 33rd chapter opened and in November of the same year, initiatives to open other chapters with the EU Commission were taken, he said.
He added that consensus to speed up the process was also reached at the Turkey-EU Summit in March 2016.
"However, at the EU General Affairs Council meeting in December 2016, it was decided not to open a new chapter," he added.
YASED, which has over 200 members, was established in 1982.