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French president Sarkozy reiterates opposition to Turkish EU membership

By Xinhua

Strasbourg : French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated here on Tuesday his opposition to full Turkish membership of the European Union.

Sarkozy made the remarks when meeting leaders of the European Parliament’s political groups in Strasbourg.

In response to questions from Socialist Group leader Martin Schulz, Sarkozy said that he had offered privileged partnership status to Turkish Premier Recip Erdogan during bilateral talks.

He declared that he would hold talks only on issues linked to Turkish association with the EU and would close five chapters related to potential long-term Turkish membership of the EU.

“I will only support measures that will not lead to full membership,” the French president replied to Schulz’s question whether he would stop accession talks during the French Presidency of the EU in the second half of 2008.

Sarkozy made his first visit to the European Parliament’s four-day plenary since becoming French president. He gave a formal speech to the members of the parliament.

His stance on Turkey led to concern for progress in EU-Turkey relations during next year’s French presidency of the 27-nation bloc.

“The French president’s position was direct,” said Schulz after the meeting.

“He said that for him, Europe has clear borders and that he considered the territory of Turkey to be predominantly in Asia Minor,” Schulz noted.

“Turkey is an important country and it is in the EU’s interest to have strong relations with Ankara.”

He said the perspective of EU membership “in the long term has led to far-reaching reforms in the country already and will produce further advances.”

“To end those talks abruptly under the French presidency would be a damaging step backwards,” Schulz warned.