New EU era ahead if Turkey joins up, says Raffarin

12th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

LISBON, Dec 12 (AFP) - The enlargement of the EU to include mainly Muslim Turkey would mark a new stage in the history of the block, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published here Sunday.

LISBON, Dec 12 (AFP) - The enlargement of the EU to include mainly Muslim Turkey would mark a new stage in the history of the block, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in an interview published here Sunday.

"The entry of Turkey is, or rather can be if it is confirmed in the next few years, a new stage in the history of the European Union due, mostly, to its size," he told Portuguese daily newspaper Publico.

"It would signify a substantial enlargement, equivalent in terms of population to the one which we just experienced on May 1, 2004," he added.

The EU expanded to take in 10 mainly ex-communist countries on that date, in its biggest-ever enlargement which brought total membership to 25 states.

If Turkey were to join, the EU's population, which stood at 455 million in January 2004, would pass the half-billion mark.

EU leaders are widely expected to approve starting membership talks with Turkey at a crunch summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, but under tough conditions.

France has backed the start of talks but is among EU members which maintain that the European block should also consider a special status for Turkey, widely referred to as "privileged partnership," as an alternative to the nation's eventual membership. Ankara has vehemently rejected such proposals.

Raffarin told the newspaper the start of negotiations was not a guarantee that Turkey would be admitted as a member of the EU.

"No one can state today exactly what the outcome of the negotiations will be," he said.

"It will depend on Turkey's progress and the unanimous decision of member states at the end of the negotiations."

Raffarin gave the interview to Publico ahead of a summit between Portugal and France which had been scheduled for Monday in the French town of Angouleme, but has now been cancelled after the Portuguese government resigned Saturday.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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