Raffarin sees ‘river of Islam’ threatin Turkey EU membership
PARIS, Sept 23 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin reiterated France's support for Turkey's eventual membership of the European Union but warned Ankara might not yet be ready to accept Western values, in an interview published Thursday in the Wall Street Journal Europe.
“We don’t think we should tell Turkey that the doors of Europe are forever closed to it,” Raffarin told the newspaper, but then said: “Do we want the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism?”
The French prime minister’s comments came as his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with EU officials in Brussels on Thursday, seeking to allay concerns about Ankara’s EU preparations two weeks ahead of a key report.
EU enlargement commissioner Guenter Verheugen is due to publish his assessment of Turkey’s EU bid on October 6. EU leaders are to decide in December whether Turkey, a candidate since 1999, can start EU membership talks.
Raffarin said Turkey had made some progress on the road to preparing its entry into the 25-nation bloc, but suggested that the mainly Muslim nation was perhaps not ready to embrace certain Western ideals.
“The issue isn’t the commitments made by Turkey’s government, it’s the attitudes of Turkish society,” the French prime minister explained.
“We’re not doubting the good faith of Mr Erdogan, but to what extent can today’s and tomorrow’s governments make Turkish society embrace Europe’s human rights values.”
French President Jacques Chirac has said he believes the path to Turkish membership is “irreversible”, but cautioned that the accession negotiations could last years.
But Chirac’s position is at odds with many in his own centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party and the French public, who believe Turkey has no place in the EU.
Subject: French News