Interview with Didier Billion, expert on Turkish affairs
Euronews: “Didier Billion, you are a researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) in Paris, specialising in the Middle East and particularly Turkey.
“This is the first time that a Turkish prime minister has made an official visit to France since EU accession talks began. Can this visit help the accession process move forward or will Nicolas Sarkozy stick to his current position?”
Didier Billion: “I really think that unfortunately Nicolas Sarkozy will not budge from his position on this issue, just like all the other issues. On many occasions he has expressed his opposition to Turkish integration into the EU, and we understand well enough that for him it’s a question of domestic politics. And I don’t see how, today, the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Paris can convince him that his position is wrong.”
Euronews: “But do you think they will have touched on this subject during their talks?”
Didier Billion: “Of course. I think that since arriving in Paris last night, the Turkish prime minister has been saying that Nicolas Sarkozy is welcome to come to Turkey to see first hand how Turkish society has developed. It’s a thinly veiled criticism of Sarkozy for not having taken the time to go to Turkey on an official visit. And that is a quite obvious nudge on the part of the Turkish prime minister. So if this meeting is useful in that sense, then that would be a very good thing.”
Euronews: “Turkish EU membership, toughening the stance on Iran, Armenia…There seems to be only disagreement between the two countries. Are there issues on which they agree?”
Didier Billion: “On Armenia, let’s make clear that Nicolas Sarkozy warmly congratulated the Armenians and the Turks when they signed the protocol agreement together last October. Unfortunately, these protocol agreements on better ties between the two countries have not been ratified, either by the Armenian or Turkish parliaments. So there, we’re falling behind schedule unfortunately. But there is at least an official sharing of views.
“On the other issues, the plan for a Mediterranean Union- if you’ll forgive me the expression- is failing to take off. Since what happened in Gaza it has struggled to get going and become a reality.
“On Syria, we know that both Turkey and France have played an important role in getting Syria back into the international fold. But there unfortunately, it’s more a case of competition between Turkey and France rather than a case of working together to improve ties with Syria. So, in effect, it is difficult to find an issue on which Turkey and France can move forward on an equal footing and in such a way that they complement each other.”