Turkey may get back at France over referendum plan

6th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

If the plan to submit Turkey’s bid to join the EU to a referendum passes through, Turkey may spurn Sarkozy’s project for a Mediterranean Union, says French minister.

6 June 2008

PARIS -  France's plan to submit Turkey's bid to join the EU to a referendum is an "insult" and could spark a serious rift between Paris and Ankara, France's Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet said.

He also said in an interview with AFP late Thursday that if the plan goes ahead, Turkey might spurn President Nicolas Sarkozy's project for a Mediterranean Union to improve links between European countries and states around the Mediterranean rim including Turkey.

The French parliament last week passed on first reading a plan to make a referendum obligatory for accepting new EU member countries with populations over five percent the bloc's entire size - a move that primarily affects Turkey.

But the plan - part of an institutional reform project - must be submitted to another vote in July before it can become law. Currently a parliamentary vote is sufficient to approve the accession of new EU members.

"Parliament is sovereign and it does what it wants, but by taking the risk of this amendment, we are taking the risk of a more serious rift than we think with Turkey," in particularly in terms of trade, said Jouyet.

"If they feel that it is France... which is creating the obstacle, it will be difficult for them to feel really at ease in the Mediterranean Union," he said.

Turkey on Tuesday slammed the French reform project, saying it was aimed at raising new barriers to Ankara's longstanding bid to join the bloc.

A foreign ministry statement said Ankara was "irked by efforts to enshrine such a discriminatory approach towards Turkey in the French constitution despite the fact that accession negotiations (between Turkey and the EU) have started with France's consent.

Objections from France, which will take over EU presidency from Slovenia on 1 July for six months, have previously contributed to slowing down Turkey's membership talks, which started in 2005.

Sarkozy is a vocal opponent of Turkey's accession, arguing that the mainly Muslim country does not belong in Europe. Instead, he proposes a "privileged partnership," an idea Turkey rejects.

Turkey has so far opened only six of the 35 policy chapters that candidates must negotiate. Eight chapters have been frozen over Ankara's refusal to grant  trade privileges to Cyprus, which it does not recognise.

[AFP / Expatica]

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