Sarkozy launches presidential bid with anti-Turkey stance
Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French interior minister, has been officially confirmed as the centre-right ruling party's candidate for April's presidential election, launching his campaign with the suggestion that "Turkey has no place inside the European Union".
Mr Sarkozy, 51, known as 'Sarko' in the French press, received 98 percent of the votes from members of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) gathered for an internal ballot on Sunday (14 January).
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In his acceptance speech to some 80,000 party supporters, the outspoken politician made what is referred to by analysts as the strongest statement so far on Turkey's European ambitions.
"I want to say that Europe must give itself borders, that not all countries have a vocation to become members of Europe, beginning with Turkey which has no place inside the European Union," he said, according to press reports.
"Enlarging Europe with no limit risks destroying European political union, and that I do not accept," he said.
Mr Sarkozy is set to face about a dozen other candidates in the first round of France's two-stage presidential vote on April 22 with his most important opponent - the socialist candidate Segolene Royal, 53, currently leading the polls.
It is expected that the two will meet in the second runoff on May 6.
However Mr Sarkozy's nomination on Sunday continues to be overshadowed by President Jacques Chirac who has not yet made it clear whether he intends to seek a third term.
Apart from his clear stance on Turkey, "Sarko" has also outlined ideas on how to solve the bloc's current constitutional impasse after French and Dutch voters rejected the treaty in referendums in 2005.
He is in favour of a "mini treaty" with elements of the current text of the EU constitution, but also believes the charter will "not enter into force in its current form."