Stating the obvious

Last week, Dominique de Villepin hit the headlines when he said that Ankara must recognize Cyprus, a European Union member, before starting its own EU talks on October 3. The French prime minister did nothing more than state the obvious: No country should be allowed to join the EU unless it is ready to recognize all of its members. Villepin’s criticism has sparked a fair amount of confusion. The British EU presidency clings to the December 2004 European Council decision that did not set the recognition of Cyprus as a condition for the opening of accession negotiations. Ankara invokes the same document, which carries the signatures of all member states, including Cyprus. Athens shares France’s concerns but has said it will take an official stand at the European Council on September 2-3. Stating the obvious was more than enough to stir the waters, agitating the champions of Turkey’s European ambitions. Nevertheless, French criticism was not triggered by sensitivity about international law. Rather, it was a corollary to the constitutional debacle in the May referendum. Given that the French «non» was partly fueled by public skepticism over Ankara’s EU bid, the French government has every reason to display strong reservations on the issue. Villepin’s criticism, who appears to have received President Jacques Chirac’s go-ahead, will lift the lid on other countries’ misgivings, like in the Netherlands and Austria.