Turkey slams France over EU referendum plan

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The Turkey government says France’s proposal to make a referendum obligatory for accepting new EU members is meant to keep them out.

4 June 2008

ANKARA - Turkey on Tuesday slammed a French reform project making a referendum obligatory for accepting new EU members, saying it was aimed at raising new barriers to Ankara's 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.

"It is inevitable for such discriminatory approaches to harm our bilateral relations and... damage the traditional friendship between our peoples," the statement said.

It said it hoped the provision would be amended before the reform plan was approved.

The French national assembly voted last week to make a referendum obligatory for accepting new EU member countries with populations over five percent of the bloc's entire size - a move that affects Turkey.

The measures are part of an institutional reform project to be submitted to a vote in July.

Currently a parliamentary vote is sufficient to approve the accession of new EU members.

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 accession talks, which started in 2005.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a vocal opponent of Turkey's accession, arguing that the mainly Muslim country does not belong to 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.

[APF / Expatica]

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