Turkish EU talks partially blocked by France

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France has agreed to open up two further negotiations chapters of membership talks with Turkey, but has blocked negotiations in the area of economic and monetary integration, in a move aimed towards Nicolas Sarkozy’s election promise of keeping Turkey out of the EU.

The EU is to take a further step in enlargement negotiations by holding accession conferences with Turkey and Croatia today (26 June).

Despite French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s repeated conviction that “Turkey has no place in Europe”, France agreed that the EU should go ahead with membership talks in two further areas, statistics and financial control. A government spokesperson told EURACTIV that this was not a sign that France had changed its mind, but that it wants to pursue good relations with Turkey.

However, the EU decided not to open the chapter on economic and monetary policy, as Turkey had hoped for. According to diplomats, France had prevented the talks going any further.

Chief negotiator Ali Babacan said that Turkey would continue its reform efforts “regardless of what chapters are opened”.

Sinan Ülgen of the Istanbul-based think-tank Edam told the IHT: “This is the first time that a chapter is being blocked on the grounds that it would bring Turkey closer to full membership.” He added: “This is a very dangerous premise and if it comes to be accepted, it will surely derail the whole membership process while giving credibility to Turkish nationalists who say ‘no matter what we do, we will never become a member of the ‘club”.”

Membership talks with Turkey were opened in October 2005, but the EU decided to partially suspend the negotiations in December 2006, following Turkey’s refusal to open its ports and airports to ships and planes from Cyprus, bringing negotiations to a halt in eight of 35 chapters. Nevertheless, the talks have since been re-opened in three policy areas.

Meanwhile, negotiations with Croatia will be opened on six further policy chapters on 26 June, including the right of establishment and freedom to provide services, company law, financial services, information society and media, statistics and financial control.

Analysts expect Croatia to be able to join soon (2009-10), following last week’s institutional settlement at the EU Summit. EU leaders had argued to put future enlargement on hold until the Union managed to solve the institutional impasse. Therefore, chances are increasing for the swift accession of Western Balkan countries, especially Croatia and Macedonia, which already have reached candidate status.

At the same time, worries are increasing over Turkey’s accession. Following Poland’s threat to topple the reform talks, and with the voting system adjusted to give more weight to countries with larger populations, the stakes are rising.

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