Global Policy Forum

Chirac: Turkey Not Fit for Entry into EU


By Emmanuel Georges-Picot

Associated Press
April 29, 2004

Turkey's aspirations to be the first Muslim-majority member of the European Union took a hit Thursday when French President Jacques Chirac said Ankara likely will not meet the bloc's conditions for another 10-15 years. Speaking at his first full-fledged news conference in six years, Chirac also said the upcoming transfer of power in Iraq must be "unambiguous" and the U.S.-led occupation authorities must cede complete control to an Iraqi administration.

The French president said Turkey needed to improve its human rights record and reform its justice system before being considered for EU membership. "Is Turkey's entry possible today? I say 'No,'" he said. But Turkey could become a member "in the perspective of 10 to 15 years," Chirac said. "My conviction is that it is in the long term."

Turkey, located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and a part of NATO since 1952, is hoping to begin talks next year on joining the EU. Ten new members are joining the 15-nation union on Saturday. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on condition of anonymity that Turkey accepted Chirac's comments but still hoped the EU would open membership talks in 2005. "Negotiations are one thing, and membership is another," the official said. "Chirac was speaking about the long term. There's nothing new about what he said."

Chirac's news conference came weeks after Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told parliament that France would oppose Turkey's entry. Predominantly Muslim Turkey has carried out sweeping reforms in the last two years, abolishing the death penalty and granting greater cultural rights to its long-oppressed Kurdish minority. The European Commission in November noted Turkey's "significant progress" in meeting the EU's conditions, but said more needed to be done.

In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Chirac was one of the most outspoken voices against the war. Now, he and other leaders are pushing for Iraq to be granted full sovereignty when the coalition hands over power on June 30. "What would be disastrous is a compromise solution founded on ambiguity," Chirac said. U.S. officials have suggested Iraq will be granted only limited sovereignty, with the coalition maintaining control of security. "Today, it is urgent to give the Iraqis back their sovereignty," he said. "The problem is how."

Any real transfer of power, Chirac said, must be overseen by the United Nations. Chirac also said it was too early to decide which method France would use to decide on a proposed European constitution. Nations can either hold referendums or allow their parliaments to vote.

EU foreign ministers agreed Monday to resume negotiations on the continent's first constitution. The charter is to be finalized at a June 17-18 EU summit, after which member states will have to ratify or reject it. Talks over the constitution, which aims to streamline decision-making in the expanded bloc, collapsed in December when Spain and Poland rejected a proposed new voting system because they believed it gave too much power to the EU's biggest countries.

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