France to back Turkey EU entry,Chirac tells Erdogan

20th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday repeated his support for Turkey's eventual membership of the European Union during a lunch meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his office reported.

PARIS, July 20 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Tuesday repeated his support for Turkey's eventual membership of the European Union during a lunch meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his office reported.  

According to a Chirac aide, the president said that "Turkey's integration into the EU is welcome as soon as it becomes possible... Turkey has made considerable progress. It must continue and intensify the implementation of democratic and economic reforms."  

Erdogan is on a three-day visit to France to lobby for support ahead of a crucial decision by EU heads of government in December whether to grant Turkey the right to accession talks.  

Chirac has previously said he believes the path to Turkish membership is "irreversible," but he is at odds with many in his own Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and the public who believe the predominantly Muslim and Asian country has no place in the club of 25.  

Speaking to reporters after his lunch with Chirac, Erdogan appeared keen to reassure a dubious French population, saying that any decision "would not be on Turkish membership of the EU, but on the beginning of negotiations on membership."  

Earlier French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier warned that even if the talks are given the go-ahead Turkey's accession would not be automatic.  

"We have to tell the truth. It is not tomorrow that Turkey will be entering the EU. The road ahead is still long. It has been on this road for some time preparing itself and making progress," he told Europe 1 radio.  

On Monday, Erdogan held talks with his French counterpart Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and he will be also seeing the leaders of the UMP's coalition partner the Union for French Democracy (UDF) and the opposition Socialists before leaving Wednesday.  

On Tuesday morning, he met French business leaders and urged them to use their weight to argue Turkey's case for entry. France's business elite sides with calls for Turkish admission, seeing the country as a major economic opportunity.   

"I am convinced that French economic circles can make a contribution to the diplomatic process, and we await it," he said.  

The debate over Turkey's right to join the EU has been particularly robust in France, where there is strong opposition both from those who fear its implications for immigration and Europe's cultural heritage, and those who say it will mean the end of their vision for a politically integrated continent.  

The nationalist leader Philippe de Villiers on Tuesday condemned Erdogan's visit and what he described as Chirac's "determination" to see Turkey join the EU. He said he would ensure Turkey's membership is at the "heart of the debate" ahead of next year's planned referendum on the EU constitution.  

Meanwhile Chirac's office confirmed that negotiations to sell mid- and long-range Airbus passenger aircraft to Turkish Airlines are now in their final stages.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article