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France against early Turkish EU membership

"France's new foreign minister Michel Barnier has caused a furore by saying that France would oppose Turkey's entry into the EU "under current circumstances".

The former European Commissioner, who was named foreign minister after a government reshuffle last week, told French parliament on Wednesday (7 April) that Ankara has not met the conditions necessary for membership.

"Turkey does not respect the conditions, even if it is preparing to do so," he said, adding that there was "no question" of Turkey's joining the EU "under current circumstances."

He was joined in his comments by Alain Juppé, leader of the centre-right UMP and a close associate of French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Juppé said countries on the periphery of the growing EU, such as Turkey, "have no business joining (the bloc), otherwise it will be diluted."

"The UMP does not want to see discussions with Turkey at the end of the year".

The comments caused uproar in the Turkish media, however Turkish politicians have attempted to play them down.

"Various exaggerated words can be said for reasons related to domestic politics," said Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, according to the Anatolia news agency.

But France’s words are significant as all member states have to give the nod of approval when the decision is taken at the end of the year on Ankara’s eligibility for starting membership negotiations.

However, the mainly Muslim country does have friends in the EU. Both Germany and the UK have spoken out strongly in favour of beginning membership negotiations with the country if it meets the political criteria for joining.

Member states will take the decision at the end of this year based on a report by the European Commission to be published in October.

Written by Honor Mahony

Assembly of Armenians of Europe

Rue de Treves 10, 1050 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 647 08 01
Fax: +32 2 647 02 00