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Sarkozy darkens Turkey's EU horizon

brussels bureau

Sarkozy darkens Turkey's EU horizon


After a new treaty for the EU is sorted out, there is Turkey… Ankara can hope not to hear the same opposition from the new French President to its bid to join the European Union as Nicolas Sarkozy has been sticking to. But hope is about all it can do. Sarkozy has repeatedly voiced his opposition to Turkish accession. The day after his election, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “We hope we’ll hear no more declarations of the sort Mister Sarkozy made during his campaign.”

Ankara also refused the notion of a “Mediterranean Union” which Sarkozy suggested as an alternative to joining the European bloc. Turkey began EU entry talks in 2005, with the consent of all the member states. This was after passing sweeping reforms in the officially secular but overwhelmingly Muslim country. A senior advisor in Ankara, Egemen Bag(pronounced ‘Bah-ersh’), defends his country’s eligibility:

“Last time I checked, the European Union was not a Christian club. If it is so, they should tell us. But according to what they tell us it’s an association, a union of values. And the values are democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience. Those are the values that we died for during the cold war years as an integral member of NATO.”

France aroused real anger in Turkey last autumn when it passed a law making denial that mass killings of Armenians in the WWI years was a genocide a punishable offence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also remains publicly opposed to ever admitting Turkey into the EU. But Merkel, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has said she will honour past commitments.

Turkey’s EU talks can only be formally halted by consensus among the 27 member states. But Sarkozy could block them by refusing to allow the opening and closing of technical talks on individual policy areas or “chapters”. Turkey’s membership, not seen before 2015 at the earliest, would also have to be ratified by all the member states.

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brussels bureau