9th Apr 2020

Call for French referendum on Turkey

France should hold a referendum on whether to allow Turkey into the EU, according to French finance minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Mr Sarkozy, widely seen as a challenger to Jacques Chirac for the next French President - told French radio last night, "A decision as important as the membership of Turkey in Europe could only be taken after there had been a referendum in France".

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"Turkey's accession, even in the best case scenario, will not happen for another 15 years if everything goes well", he added.

He also expressed some concerns over Turkey's entry "because Turkey alone represents the membership of the 10 countries (mainly) from eastern Europe", referring to Turkey's population compared to the new member states.

The river of Islam

According to the FT, Mr Sarkozy's comments follow a similar sceptical statement from French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who asked if Europe really wanted "the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism".

However, Mr Sarkozy echoed calls made recently by the leader of the opposition centre-right parties in Germany, that Turkey should be given special partner status.

German CDU out of step?

The German Christian Democrat Party appears to be suffering an internal split over the Turkish issue.

The leader of Germany's centre-right opposition party, Angela Merkel, earlier this month wrote to other centre-right leaders in the EU in a bid to block Turkey's full membership of the EU, offering instead a "privileged partnership".

Chairman of the German Parliament’s foreign affairs committee Volker Rühe has however criticised the party’s leader Angela Merkel of being out of step with the majority in Europe.

"The CDU should accept the report by the EU Commission", he urged and warned of populism in the debate over Turkey in an interview with Financial Times Deutschland.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the deputy leader of the Christian Democrat group in the German Parliament on the other hand, criticised the German enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen of putting EU unity at risk over Turkey.

European unity will "fail and the EU as a political Union become unattainable, when Turkey becomes a full member", Mr Schäuble told Welt am Sonntag.

Turkey looks set to get the green light to start accession talks with the EU after its parliament voted over the weekend to approve the package of reforms to its penal code, seen as a key step to satisfying the Commission.

The Brussels executive will release its report - widely expected to be positive - on 6 October. Member States will then decide definitively in December whether to open negotiations.


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