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In their treatment of Turkish immigrants and their families, the Member States of the European Union (EU) are bound by an Association Agreement that the European Economic Community (EEC) signed with Turkey in 1963.[1] The Association Agreement with Turkey was one of many Association Agreements concluded with candidates for membership in the EEC. Many of these, however, are no longer relevant because the countries have since become members of the EU.[2] The Agreement with Turkey, however, has retained a certain importance because Turkey is not an EU Member State and because of the large number of Turkish immigrants in Europe.

Among other goals, the Association Agreement with Turkey intended to improve the situation of Turkish workers (then frequently called guest workers) in the Member States of the EEC, which has since become the EU. Articles 6(1) of the Agreement allows Turkish workers to extend their period of residence in an EU Member State, providing as follows:

Article 6
1) Subject to Article 7 on free access to employment for members of his family, a Turkish worker duly registered as belonging to the labour force of a Member State:
  • Shall be entitled in that Member State, after one year’s legal employment, to the renewal of his permit to work for the same employer, if a job is available;
  • Shall be entitled in that member State, after three years of legal employment and subject to the priority to be given to workers of Member States of the Community, to respond to another offer for employment, with an employer of his choice, made under normal conditions and registered with the employment services of the State, for the same occupation;
  • Shall enjoy free access in that Member State to any paid enjoyment of his choice, after four years of legal employment.

Article 7 grants family members of the workers the following rights:

Article 7
The members of the family of a Turkish worker duly registered as belonging to the labour force of a Member State, who have been authorized to join him:
  • Shall be entitled – subject to the priority given to workers of Member States of the Community – to respond to any offer of employment after they have been legally resident for at least three years in that Member State;
  • Shall enjoy free access to any paid employment of their choice provided they have been legally resident there for at least five years.

Children of Turkish workers who have completed a course of vocational training in the host country may respond to any offer of employment there, irrespective of the length of time they have been resident in that Member State, provided one of their parents has been legally employed in the Member State concerned for at least three years.

The Agreement was amended by agreement in 1972,[3] which commenced the process of allowing Turks in EU Member States the freedom of movement enjoyed by EU citizens.  Some progress in the status of Turkish immigrants was also made in 1980 by Decision 80/1 of the Association Council established under the Agreement.[4]

The European Court of Justice has continuously held that the Decision 80/1 is an integral part of EU Law and insists on interpreting it for the Member States through preliminary rulings.[5] The Court generally interprets Decision 80/1 generously.  Even though the Decision deals with the right to work of Turkish immigrants, the Court holds that this right to work in effect is a right to reside in the given Member State.[6]

Altogether, the Association Agreement, together with Decision 80/1, is interpreted as giving Turkish workers who have acquired rights under the Agreement the right to return to the Member State where they acquired such rights.[7]  The Agreement does not give the right to enter an EU Member State.  That issue is still governed by the laws of the individual Member States, which must comply with an EU framework.  The Agreement, however, prevents the Member States from adopting more restrictive rules of entry for Turkish entrepreneurs and service providers than existed in 1973.[8]

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Prepared by Edith Palmer
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II
February 2013



[1] Association Agreement with Turkey 3687/64, Sept. 12, 1963, 1964 Journal Oficiel de la Communité Europeenne (217) 3687, and Additional Protocol to the Agreement, 1977 Official Journal of the European Community [O.J.] (L 361) 1.

[2] Günter Renner, Ausländerrecht in Deutschland 212 (1998).

[3] Council Regulation 2760/72, 1970 O.J. (L 293) 1.

[4] This decision is unpublished.  It is described in judicial decisions and in the literature as Association Council Decision Number 1/80 and it expands the rights of movement and family reunion of Turkish immigrants.  See, e.g., Case C-329/97 (ECJ, Mar. 16, 2000), http://curia.europa.eu/juris/liste.jsf?language=en&jur=C,T,F&num=C-329/97&td=ALL.

[5] Migration, Allgemeine Hinweise, Bundesministerium des Inneren (May 2, 2002), http://www.migration-online.de/gesetz._cGlkPSZhbXA7X19wcmludD0xJmFtcDtpZD0yODk_.html.

[6] Id., para. 1.5.1.

[7] 1 EU Immigration and Asylum Law 30 (Steve Peers et al. eds., 2012).

[8] Id.

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