French centre-right MPs want to cut EU funds to Turkey
15.10.10 @ 09:23
Centre-right French MPs on Thursday (14 September) tabled an amendment in the National Assembly demanding that France next year not pay money due to Turkey to help it on the path to EU membership
French daily Le Monde reports that around 50 deputies from president Nicolas Sarkozy's own Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party are opposed to including so-called pre-accession funds in the national finance bill for 2011. The UMP has 317 of the 577-seat lower house.
The money is used by the EU-hopeful to fund public programmes and policies aimed at bringing it into line with member state norms in areas such as health, education and infrastructure policies.
Some €900 million has been allocated to the pre-accession funds for the 2007-2013 financial period. Of this, France is meant to pay €127 million.
Referring to France's difficult financial situation, the deputies note that Turkish membership of the EU is an objective wanted "neither by the French, nor the Turks."
French people "do not understand why this country is encouraged to make reforms with a view to EU accession, not out of ostracism, but simply because Turkey is not in Europe. This is evident both geographically and historically," they say in a statement quoted by the paper.
Their move comes at a sensitive time in relations between the European Union and Turkey. The country formally opened membership negotiations in 2005 but they have all but stopped due Ankara's territorial dispute with Cyprus.
The lack of progress is compounded by the fact that France, along with Germany, have openly stated they do not want the country to become a full member of the European Union. Mr Sarkozy has in the past said that Turkey is not a European country.
Some 35 areas of legislation have to be negotiated before a country may enter the EU. Member states have to agree to open and close each chapter, meaning an EU candidate can be held up by one government. France has blocked the opening of chapters it considers too indicative of eventual EU membership, such as on farm policy.
Turkey has some stronger supporters among member states, including Britain and Sweden. But the overall lukewarm impression given by the EU has soured ordinary Turks' feelings towards membership.
In addition, Turkey growing sense of its own regional importance, as well as its relative economic strength when compared to the slow growth in the EU, has changed the dynamics in the relationship. However, Ankara still insists it is committed to pursuing EU membership.