HOLLANDE VISITS TURKEY, REVIVES EU AMBITIONS, ESCAPES PERSONAL WORRIES
Deutsche Welle Europe, Germany
January 27, 2014 Monday 10:44 PM EST
Jan 27, 2014
French president Francois Hollande has traveled to Turkey, and signaled
a possible change in France’s views on Ankara’s EU bid. His trip is
somewhat of an escape from media focus at home on his relationship
woes. Hollande’s state visit to Turkey -. the first by a French
head of state in 22 years – was billed on Monday as a bid to mend
relations strained in recent years by differing views on the mass
deaths of Armenians in 1915, while smoothing the way for French
companies looking to do business in Turkey.
During talks on Monday, the French leader somewhat cautiously backed
Ankara’s aim to join the EU, despite concerns within the European
Commission over the independence of the Turkish judiciary amid a
Turkish government crackdown on alleged corruption.
Hollande, whose predecessor Nicolas Sakozy favored association status
for Turkey instead of full accession, said Ankara should continue to
negotiate on joining the EU.
He said talks would allow it to fully address concerns such as the
rule of law, judicial independence, separation of powers and respect
of fundamental liberties.
“The [membership] process must be carried forward with the most
difficult subjects, subjects that are necessarily the hardest,”
Hollande said during a press conference with Turkish President Abdullah
Gul [both pictured above].
“The negotiation process must allow Turkey to develop and show what
it’s capable of achieving…That is the answer that the Turks must
provide,” Hollande said.
Slow progress at talks Turkey has completed 14 of 35 membership
‘chapters’ that must be fulfilled before it can join the EU. It
resumed talks last year following a three-year hiatus.
On that, Hollande added: “Negotiations do not entail membership. The
issue of membership will be decided upon at referendum.”
EU rules dictate that accession of a new member requires unanimous
approval by the bloc’s 28 current members.
Gul did not make mention of any tension in Ankara but said the talks
with the EU was a technical process with an as-yet unknown outcome.
“We respect that the accession process is one to adopt legal and
democratic criteria and judicial reforms,” he said. “We should not
like this to become hostage to politics.”
Full diplomatic ties between Turkey and France were restored two years
ago after a falling out over a French law that made it illegal to
deny that the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 amounted
to genocide. The law was struck down by the French Constitutional
Court last year.
Domestic drama Hollande’s visit comes days after he announced a split
from his long-term partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, following
tabloid reports the leader had had an affair with actress Julie Gayet.
Hollande did not comment on his private life while in Ankara on
Monday. While he was there, Trierweiler was on a trip of her own to
India, for a charity against hunger.
In her first public comments since the scandal broke, Trierweiler
reacted tongue-in-cheek to French journalists who had followed her
across the world for their “interest in malnutrition.”
When asked about her health, Trierweiler said she “felt well” and
that it felt good to be on the trip.
“I have the impression I’m being useful for something. Don’t worry
about me,” she told reporters.
jr/ipj (AFP, Reuters, AP)