Turkey’s EU entry still long way off: France

Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
July 20 2004

Turkey’s EU entry still long way off: France

PARIS – Turkey is making progress towards European Union membership
but its entry is still a long way off, France said before talks on
Tuesday between Turkey’s prime minister and French President Jacques

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan held a breakfast meeting with French
business leaders ahead of lunch with Chirac at the Elysee Palace
where they were set to discuss Turkey’s EU drive.

`We have to be truthful — Turkey is not going to enter the European
Union tomorrow,’ French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told Europe 1

`The road is still long, but it is on this path and has been making
progress for some time.’

EU leaders will decide in December whether to open entry talks with
Ankara. France is seen as the only large EU member state still with
reservations about admitting Turkey.

Erdogan briefed French officials on Monday about Turkey’s drive to
bring its laws into line with EU rules. French Prime Minister
Jean-Pierre Raffarin said afterwards an EU Commission report this
October on Turkey’s readiness would be key.

Barnier said even if the Commission gave the green light for entry
talks, full Turkish membership was not imminent: ‘Afterwards, there
will be a certain delay (before entry).’

France’s political class is deeply divided over admitting its NATO
ally to the European Union, with critics citing Turkey’s poverty and
human rights record as barriers.

Chirac, who told a NATO summit in Istanbul in June that Turkey’s EU
drive was `irreversible’, faces opposition on Turkish entry from
within his governing conservatives.

Alain Juppe, a close Chirac ally and former head of the conservative
UMP party, has said the entry of a Muslim nation of 70 million would
distort the 25-nation European Union.

The opposition Socialists support Turkish membership in principle,
but party chief Francois Hollande has linked the start of entry talks
to Ankara’s recognition of the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman
forces as genocide.

France is home to a significant Armenian population. Pro-Armenian
groups were to demonstrate in Paris later on Tuesday against
Erdogan’s three-day visit.


Erdogan, who is accompanied by a trade delegation, met top French
employers’ association, MEDEF, on Tuesday morning.

During his visit he is expected to discuss the possible purchase of
jets from Airbus EADS.PA for the national carrier Turkish Airlines

The state-run airline, which is slated for privatisation, has said it
is talking to both European-based Airbus and to US rival Boeing Co.
BA.N amid a boom in Turkish air travel.

Turkey’s ruling centre-right AKP party, which has its roots in
political Islam, has introduced a flurry of liberal political and
economic reforms ahead of December’s decision.

A top Turkish diplomat told CNN Turk television only two major pieces
of EU-linked legislation still awaited parliament’s approval — a
revised penal code bringing criminal law closer to EU norms and a law
easing limits on freedom of association.

The diplomat, Murat Sungar, said he hoped parliament would approve
them at a special session in September.

Turkish financial markets are closely watching the run-up to
December, fearful that a ‘no’ could trigger a fresh economic crisis,
unseat the government and perhaps reverse some reforms.

Britain, Germany, Italy and Greece have pledged strong support for
Turkey’s EU bid. Diplomats expect negotiations to start in 2005 but
say full membership is a decade away.