'The ball is in your court' on EU bid, France tells Turkey

12th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner urged Turkey on Tuesday to push ahead with reforms in order to advance its lagging accession negotiations with the European Union.

Speaking at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Kouchner said that Turkey could open talks on three new chapters, or policy areas that a canidate country must successfully negotiate before accession.

The chapter on competition "should be opened before the end of the year" and the one on social policy and employment "next year", Kouchner told reporters here.

A third chapter on the reform of public procurement "should not be a problem," he added.

But "we have a number of reforms to be completed by your country so that these three chapters can be opened," the French minister said. "For the moment, the ball is in your court."

France, along with Germany, are among the most vocal opponents of Turkey's ambition to join the 27-nation bloc and argues that the mainly Muslim country of about 73 million people should settle for a "priviliged partnership" rather than full membership.

When queried about how France views Turkey's EU bid, Kounchner refused to go into detail, saying: "You know the position of France".

Turkey began accession negotiations with the EU in 2005, but the process has stalled amid opposition from some member states, lack of reform in Turkey and a trade row over the divided island of Cyprus.

Eight chapters remain frozen owing to refusal by Turkey to open its ports to Cyprus, an EU member which Ankara does not recognise owing to the island's 36-year division between its Greek and Turkish communities.

Davutoglu, for his part, said he had urged France to "liberalise" visa regimes for Turks in the footsteps of Balkan countries which are also EU candidates.

He called on the EU to "apply the Balkan procedure to Turkey, neither more nor less."

Turkey favors the repeal of entry visas to EU countries, arguing that such a move would facilitate business relationships.

© 2010 AFP

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