Giscard opposes Turkey in EU

PARIS – Former French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing issued a strongly worded appeal against Turkish membership in the European Union yesterday, arguing that it would require the drafting of yet another constitution to replace the one currently awaiting ratification. In an opinion column in Le Figaro newspaper, Giscard D’Estaing – who led the EU convention that drew up the constitution – said that talks with Ankara, which could begin next year, should focus on forming a «privileged partnership» rather than full accession. With a population expected to grow to 89 million in 20 years, Turkey would represent 15 percent of the EU population – giving it 96 deputies out of 750 in the European Parliament and a dominant voice on the council of ministers which represents member states, Giscard D’Estaing said. «To avoid arriving at a situation in which the last state to join the union – without any experience of how it functions – becomes the prime decision-maker, it would be necessary to re-write the constitution to install a new limit for the influence of countries with large populations,» he wrote. «Let us recall the debate that sparked off at the convention. We may well question the chances of ever reaching a new version acceptable to all… It is a fact: The European Constitution currently submitted for ratification was not conceived to welcome in a national power the size of Turkey,» he said. According to Giscard D’Estaing – whose article was entitled «For a Return to Reason» – promises made in the past to Turkey that it would eventually be allowed into the EU have already been fulfilled because they were made at a time when the Common Market was a purely economic body. (Turkey has had a customs union with the EU since 1995). Strongly denying that the country’s Muslim religion was the reason for his opposition, he argued nonetheless that Europeans needed to «strengthen their identity» to develop a «European patriotism» and that this process could only suffer from Turkish membership. «The European convention sought to define the foundations of what brings us together: the cultural legacy of Ancient Greece and Rome, the religious heritage which infused European life, the creative zeal of the Renaissance, the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the contribution of rational and scientific thought. None of these elements was shared by Turkey.» «Turkish membership, whenever it were to take place, would change the nature of the European project,» he said. Giscard D’Estaing also argued that was Turkey to join the EU, a precedent would be set for other countries, such as Morocco – leading to a process of «permanent enlargement, destabilizing the functioning of the system and depriving it of its original rationale.» Instead of offering full membership, Giscard D’Estaing said the EU needed «creativity and imagination in defining relations with its neighbors.» Talks should be aimed at «establishing a shared zone of economic prosperity and putting in place permanent structures of political cooperation – constituting a privileged partnership between Turkey and the EU,» he said.