Business not as usual with Turkey

PARIS/BRUSSELS – France said yesterday it would not allow the European Union to simply carry on with business as usual in Turkey’s accession negotiations. In the clearest signal so far that Paris may block the opening of at least one new policy area in the talks this month, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s new European affairs chief Jean-Pierre Jouyet said: «There will be no pursuit of negotiations as if nothing had been said by the president of France.» EU diplomats said France had indicated in preparatory discussions in Brussels that it had particular concern about allowing Turkey to open the negotiating chapter on economic and monetary policy, one of 35 into which EU law is divided. Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters that, from the Commission’s point of view, there was no major difficulty with Turkey on that chapter. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said the EU had agreed to open accession talks with Turkey and must keep its word. «We have a duty to go on with previous commitments that we’ve made,» Bildt told a news conference after a meeting of Baltic Sea foreign ministers in Malmo, Sweden. Sarkozy has repeatedly said Turkey has no place in the EU and called for a review at a summit of the 27-nation bloc in December with a view to setting a different final objective. Jouyet, secretary of state for European affairs, said France would allow some talks to continue for now to avoid causing problems for the German EU presidency as it seeks a deal next week on a treaty reforming the bloc’s institutions. «It so happens that the issue is not on the table right now, and our priority is… the success of the Germany presidency at the European Council of June 21-22, and to get out of the institutional blockage. We do not want to complicate things,» he said. «As for the opening of new chapters, it is in our interest that Turkey modernizes itself independently of the issue of its accession. There are technical discussions going on today, which exist. We have to make up our minds between now and the end of June,» Jouyet added. But his warning of no business as usual appeared to suggest Paris was considering blocking the economic and monetary affairs chapter later this month, which could heighten tension with Ankara in the runup to a July 22 Turkish general election. Italy has also weighed in, with Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema telling a news conference in Ankara that Rome would push for three new chapters to be opened during the German presidency. The German EU presidency is hoping to open three more chapters with Turkey on June 26 – statistics, financial control and economic and monetary policy. Cyprus has raised a reservation about the financial control chapter because of Ankara’s refusal to recognize the Nicosia government, the diplomats said. A spokesman for the German presidency said the enlargement decision had been left off the agenda for today’s weekly meeting of EU ambassadors, the last scheduled before next week’s summit, because discussion was continuing in a working group. European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told Reuters that Sarkozy was right not to want to risk blocking EU institutional reform by raising the Turkey issue now. «I am confident that the president of France will stick to this position so as to let the European Council indeed deal with the EU’s most urgent priority, which is the institutional reform,» he said. Turkey began membership talks in October 2005 but has so far completed only one chapter and opened one other. The EU suspended eight chapters last December to sanction Ankara for failing to open its ports and airports to traffic from Cyprus.

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.