Sarkozy softens opposition to Turkey’s EU membership

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy has softened his stance towards Turkey, saying that he would not block negotiations between Ankara and the European Union, despite his long opposition to the country’s accession.

In his first major foreign policy speech since he was elected in May, Nicolas Sarkozy called on the EU to set up a committee of “wise men” to study what is best for the Union’s future, including the extent of its borders.

“If the 27 undertake this crucial discussion about the future of our Union, France will not oppose opening new chapters in negotiations between the Union and Turkey in the coming months and years,” he said. 

The statement was the first time that Sarkozy, who will take over the six-month EU Presidency in July 2008, acknowledged the possibility of Turkey’s full membership, although he added: “I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Everybody knows I’m only favourable to an association.” 

He also specified that his acceptance of further negotiations would continue to hinge on the two sides avoiding areas of legislation that presuppose EU membership, saying that only chapters that are “compatible with both possible visions of the future of relations: either accession or very close association” should be covered. 

In June, he had vetoed the opening of talks with Ankara on economic and monetary affairs (EURACTIV 26/06/07). 

In his speech, the French president also called for a more ambitious European security strategy, saying that it was time for Europe to “affirm itself as a first-rank player for peace and security in the world” and that this would be the objective of a White Paper, for which he seeks the approval of the EU-27 during France’s presidency in the first half of 2008. 

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