French, German conservatives oppose Turkish bid

9th January 2005, Comments 0 comments

KIEL, Germany, Jan 8 (AFP) - Germany's opposition conservatives and the new head of France's ruling centre-right party, Nicolas Sarkozy, on Saturday took a common stand in favour of the European Union's new constitution but against full Turkish membership of the bloc.

KIEL, Germany, Jan 8 (AFP) - Germany's opposition conservatives and the new head of France's ruling centre-right party, Nicolas Sarkozy, on Saturday took a common stand in favour of the European Union's new constitution but against full Turkish membership of the bloc.

"It was a very intense exchange, there is a very strong unity of viewpoints, I am very proud that we have decided to strengthen our cooperation," said Angela Merkel, leader of the main opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU), following a meeting of party leaders to which Sarkozy had been invited.

In a statement, the CDU reaffirmed its "commitment to the idea of a special partnership between the EU and Turkey," arguing that full membership would be an institutional, financial and political obstacle to the EU's success.

The party also argued in favour of ratifying the EU constitution, saying the text "defends our values and makes democratic decisions possible."

"I agree with both the detail and the spirit of everything Angela Merkel has just said... our positions are perfectly identical," said Sarkozy, who had attended a meeting of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the CDU, earlier this week.

Sarkozy's UMP and the CDU, the party of former chancellors Helmut Kohl and Konrad Adenauer, signed a declaration of understanding on Saturday, and are to set up a joint working group steered by leaders of both parties.

"We are going to work to convince our fellow citizens that the European constitution is a good constitution," Sarkozy added, vowing to campaign for a 'yes' vote in a French referendum expected in the first half of 2005.

All 25 EU member states must ratify the constitution, which aims to streamline the workings of the bloc, before it can go into effect.

On the question of Turkish membership, "our positions are absolutely identical," Sarkozy stressed, adding that "we share the same concerns about the place of the new eastern European countries in the EU."

Under pressure from Sarkozy, French President Jacques Chirac has promised a referendum on ratifying Turkey's eventual EU membership.

EU leaders agreed at a summit in Brussels last week to launch membership negotiations with Ankara on October 3, but set a series of tough conditions and made clear that Turkey could not hope to join the EU before 2014.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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