Turkey to press EU bid at Franco-German summit

25th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Oct 24 (AFP) - France will come under renewed pressure on Tuesday to soften its stance on Turkey's bid to join the European Union when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drops in on a Franco-German summit in Berlin.

BERLIN, Oct 24 (AFP) - France will come under renewed pressure on Tuesday to soften its stance on Turkey's bid to join the European Union when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drops in on a Franco-German summit in Berlin.

In German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder Erdogan has won perhaps his strongest ally in his country's four-decade-old bid to join the EU and he will be hoping to benefit from Berlin's exceptionally close ties with Paris.

France has emerged as a major hurdle in Ankara's bid for EU membership, since the European Commission recommended this month in a long-awaited report on the state of Turkey's reforms that EU leaders should offer it a date for accession talks.

Even though French President Jacques Chirac has said he favours Turkey eventually joining the EU, he has bowed to pressure to hold a referendum on the issue and warned Paris could veto Ankara's membership talks at any time.

That stance, which Chirac took when he and Schroeder last met on October 1, has exasperated Erdogan amid growing calls for EU citizens - who are according to opinion polls are largely against Turkey's entry - to be able to vote on its future.

"What we have been trying to explain for months, above all else, is that holding a referendum is not among the criteria for adhesion to the EU," Erdogan complained in Paris on Thursday.

"For years we have been present in other international organisations alongside France. Why not the EU? That is what I want them to think about."

Even the report itself, which suggests in any case that Turkey will not join the Union for at least a decade, was not entirely palatable for his government.

"The report was like a plate of rice that when you taste it, you find pieces of grit which look like grains of rice," Justice Minister Cemil Cicek told businessman in Germany, home to around 2.5 million Turks, last week.

Despite the tensions, however, officials have been at pains to point out that the meeting is not supposed to focus on Turkey's EU bid.

"It is not a summit of three," German government spokesman Bela Anda told reporters on Friday, while a source at the Turkish foreign ministry said the visit is essentially about signing an Airbus contract for Turkish Airlines.

The company is buying 36 of the passenger aircraft at a total cost of EUR 2.22 billion (USD 2.8 billion) to revive its ageing fleet.

"Of course, inevitably, Turkey's candidature will be discussed with the German and French officials," the ministry spokesman said. "But this visit should not be seen as a pro-European campaign by Turkey.

Accompanying Erdogan will be Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who is scheduled to meet his German counterpart Joschka Fischer.

The summit - the fourth between Germany and France since last year - will see cabinet ministers meet their opposite numbers and a series of talks between Schroeder, Chirac and French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

The main issues on the agenda are social security reforms, security policy, and "knowledge of the other's language."

French Economy Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been widely criticised in Berlin, will also meet his German counterpart Wolfgang Clement on Monday to try to iron out some of their differences.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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