5th Feb 2023

Chirac says Turkey needs 'major cultural revolution' to join EU

French president Jacques Chirac has said that Turkey needs to undergo a "major cultural revolution" if it is to become a member of the EU.

His words come just one day after the EU wrangled for a 30-hour marathon session to get agreement among member states allowing accession talks to begin on Monday (3 October).

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Speaking after a meeting with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the president expressed his support for Turkey but was doubtful about whether the huge, mainly Muslim country would ever become a member of the bloc.

Will [Turkey] succeed? I don't know. What is clear, is that she will need time, a lot of time, 10-15 years at least," Mr Chirac said.

"Will she succeed?", he repeated. "I don't know. I hope so, but I'm not at all sure. So let's be elegant enough - that is also in our interests - to discuss this," he added.

His equivocal comments about Turkey are reflected by many politicians in the bloc, aware that several sectors of the EU population remain hostile to Ankara's membership bid.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said on Tuesday (4 October) that "Turkey must win the hearts and minds of European citizens".

"They are the ones who at the end of the day will decide about Turkey's membership."

Olli Rehn, enlargement commissioner, emphasized that while the objective of the negotiations is accession, there is no "automacity" about the process.

One year

The commission said on Tuesday that it expects it will take at least one year before the real technical talks begin.

On 20 October, the so-called 'screening' process will begin to see if the country's laws meet the minimum requirements to start talks in specific areas.

These specific areas run to 35 different chapters of legislation, about 80,000 pages of EU law, covering everything from the environment, to food safety rules to justice and home affairs.

The first areas to be looked at in two weeks are science and research followed by culture and education.

Member states are also entitled to give their final unanimous approval for talks to start in the each of the areas.

Meanwhile, the negotiating mandate also has a strong proviso.

It states that if the EU finds "a serious and persistent breach [. . .] of the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law," it can suspend negotiations.

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