Villepin recalls possibility of Turkey referendum

29th September 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 29 (AFP) - Turkey's application process to the European Union will be "clearly controlled," French prime minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday -- recalling that Ankara's eventual membership will have to be approved by national referendum in France.

PARIS, Sept 29 (AFP) - Turkey's application process to the European Union will be "clearly controlled," French prime minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday -- recalling that Ankara's eventual membership will have to be approved by national referendum in France.

"I am in favour of a process of engagement as long as the conditions are properly fulfilled so that (Turkish) membership can take place. That is why we have insisted ... that the process be clearly controlled and that the French can take the decision by referendum," Villpein told a press conference.

Turkish accession talks are due to start on Monday but member states have been unable to agree on negotiation procedures because of an insistence by Austria that Ankara also be offered something short of full membership.

The EU has called an emergency meeting of foreign ministers for this weekend to try to resolve the impasse after diplomats failed to bridge differences.

The EU Thursday called an emergency meeting of ministers to try to end an impasse over Turkey, as high-stakes brinkmanship seems set to go down to the wire ahead of landmark EU-Turkey talks next week.

The British EU presidency relented and summoned foreign ministers for talks Sunday -- the day before the EU is due to start membership talks with Ankara -- after ambassadors again failed to break the deadlock.

There were also growing signs that Austria, which opposes Turkey's bid to become a full EU member, wants to use the Turkey issue to boost Croatia's hopes of starting delayed talks.

"I can confirm that foreign ministers will meet on Sunday," said a British spokesman. "Unfortunately it was not possible to agree the negotiating framework today at ambassadorial level."

EU leaders agreed last December to open talks with Turkey on October 3. But strains appeared in July when, while signing an updated customs accord with the EU, Ankara reaffirmed that it would not recognize member state Cyprus.

A dispute over how to respond to that was finally resolved last week, but the negotiating framework row will now be tackled at the emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers, probably over dinner in Luxembourg.

France originally raised objections to the start of talks because of Turkey's refusal to formally recognise the Greek Cypriot government of Cyprus, but agreed to a compromise under which recognition will have to take place before Ankara can become an EU member.

Last year France altered its constitution to make any future accession to the EU conditional on a national referendum.

One EU official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said that Austrian leaders "maintain their reservations about the negotiating framework."

"Their demands involve an alternative or interim solution to membership should the EU be unable to integrate Turkey or should Turkey not fulfill all the criteria," he said.

Turkey's parliament speaker Bulent Arinc charged that Turkey was being provoked to walk away from the talks.

"It seems as if our patience is being tested. Looking at what is being done to Turkey one sees that there are some quarters that hope to get rid of us by forcing us to walk away from the (negotiating) table," Arinc said in an interview on Turkey's NTV television.

Any hold up beyond Monday would be sure to further anger Turkey, which has had ties with the European bloc for more than 40 years but has seen its efforts to join consistently hampered.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has warned that he will turn his back on the talks if the negotiating framework contains "any formula or suggestion other than full membership."

Despite official denials, some diplomats allow that Austria's stance on Turkey could be linked with Croatia's hopes of starting EU talks, which depend on Zagreb's cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel suggested as much in an interview in Thursday's Financial Times newspaper.

"If we trust Turkey to make further progress we should trust Croatia too," Schuessel said. "It is in Europe's interest to start negotiations with Croatia immediately."

Austria has been a strong supporter of Croatia's efforts to join the bloc and four out of five Austrians oppose Turkey joining.

The EU official said EU ministers will meet early on Monday with Carla Del Ponte, the head of the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, to discuss Croatia's candidature.

That meeting would "probably be followed by a global decision on Turkey and Croatia during the morning," the EU official said.

The EU-Turkey talks come amid clear public opposition to Turkey's EU hopes: a Eurobarometer poll in July indicated that 52 percent of Europeans are against offering EU entry to Turkey, with only 35 percent in favour.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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