Former French president says Turkey, EU have 'shared destiny'
Turkey and the European Union have a "shared destiny" and should establish a strong bond, former French president Jacques Chirac said here Tuesday.
"Whatever the bond that will tie Turkey to the European Union in the coming years will be... my firm conviction is that it has to be as strong as possible," Chirac said in a speech at Istanbul's Galatasaray University where he received an honorary degree.
"Turkey and the European Union obviously have a shared destiny," he added.
Chirac was among EU leaders who gave the green light in 2004 to open membership talks with Turkey the following year.
In comments published in the Turkish daily Posta on Monday, the former French leader said he had the "conviction" that it was "in the interest of Europe to start the negotiations so that a larger block would be able to assert itself economically and politically."
Chirac's successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is one of the most vocal opponents of Turkey's drive to join the European bloc.
Along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sarkozy says the relatively poor and Muslim-majority country of 71 million does not belong in Europe and should be offered an alternative less than full membership -- an idea Turkey categorically rejects.
Since starting membership talks in 2005, Ankara has succeeded in opening only 12 of the 35 chapters that candidate countries are required to complete in order to join the bloc.
The process has also been slowed by Ankara's sluggish pace of reform and its refusal to allow EU-member Cyprus -- a country it does not recognise -- access to its ports under a customs union accord with the EU.
Chirac, who arrived in Ankara Monday and met President Abdullah Gul over lunch, will leave Turkey Wednesday.
© 2010 AFP