France preparing moves against Turkish EU membership
By Honor Mahony
France is already preparing to move against Turkish membership of the European Union by indicating it will block preliminary talks with Ankara on economic and monetary union.
According to articles in both the Financial Times and its German equivalent FT Deutschland, French officials have expressed specific concern about Turkey being allowed to open negotiations in this area - a step in the direction of eventually becoming a member of the euro.
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The French blockade could come at the end of this month - indicating French president Nicolas Sarkozy is putting his wish that Turkey never joins the EU into effect earlier than expected.
While visiting Brussels last month, Mr Sarkozy said "I believe that Turkey does not have a place in the European Union."
He said that the EU will not be able to avoid having a debate on the issue but added he would present Paris' new plan for Turkey only in December to avoid de-railing next week's EU leaders summit which already has a full and contentious agenda dealing with treaty issues.
But these reports could affect the summit talks next week, with tough negotiations currently taking place on whether to include so-called enlargement criteria - and what they should be - into a new-look treaty for the bloc.
For its part, the German EU presidency had hoped to open three more so-called chapters of EU legislation - including statistics and financial controls - for discussion with Turkey before the end of its presidency stint.
This was to be a sign of the EU's continued willingness to engage with Ankara despite the recent political turmoil over the presidential elections which saw the European Commission warn Turkey after the army indicated it could intervene in the process.
It also came on top of the EU's December decision to freeze talks in eight areas due to Ankara's continued refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic coming from member state Cyprus.
The commission, too, has been anxious to keep talks on track urging member states to complete negotiations - likely to take several more years - with Turkey before making a final decision on it becoming a member.
The incoming Portuguese presidency has also said it wants to make progress. On Monday (11 June), its ambassador to the EU, Alvaro de Mendoca, said "enlargement negotiations will continue" during its six-month running of the bloc.