Sarkozy eases stance on Turkey

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Despite his opposition to Turkey’s EU entry, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has signalled that he would not block current membership negotiations ahead of the June Summit, saying the “real rendezvous” will be in December.

The French leader said that he would concentrate efforts on a new “simplified Treaty” and break the institutional impasse rather than the issue of Turkey’s accession to the EU, suggesting that he would not veto the current talks.

“My priority is the success of the German Presidency and the European Council on 21-22 June,” he told reporters in Paris on 28 May.

Turkey hopes to open up talks in up to three further negotiating areas, the so-called “chapters” on statistics, financial control and economic and monetary policy, under the German Presidency before the end of June.

So far, only two negotiating chapters have been opened, in the areas of science and research and industrial policy. However, the pace of negotiations has slowed down since the EU decided to suspend talks on eight of the 35 negotiating areas, due to a lack of progress on the Cyprus issue. 

Despite the current breathing space for Turkey, the issue is bound to be back on the table. Sarkozy said: “The real rendezvous will be in December 2007,” when EU leaders are to discuss the future of EU enlargement at a European Summit.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told French newspaper Le Figaro: “The new French president is demonstrating a responsible attitude. It is preferable to continue the negotiation process with Turkey.”

However, Sarkozy has made clear that eventually he wants to offer Turkey a “privileged partnership” instead of full EU membership. Moreover, his recently floated idea of a “Mediterranean Union” including France and Turkey, as well as Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Greece and some North African countries, has caused controversy in Ankara.

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