Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sarkozy v. Turkey

It seems like both French candidates need to attack a Muslim country of their choice. For Royal it has been Iran and its nuclear program, but for Nicolas Sarkozy, it has clearly become Turkey.

Le Monde - At the time of a top of the European popular Party (EPP) with Meise, close to Brussels, the future candidate of the UMP in the presidential election showed himself very critical on the Turkish file. According to a German person in charge, the Minister of Interior Department (Sarkozy) "said to the others that if he were elected, he would have an obligation towards the French people". And to invite the participants in the meeting, among which the chancellors German and Austrian Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schüssel, to think of what could resemble the "privileged partnership" which he preaches as an alternative to admission.
At the end of the meeting, Nicolas Sarkozy decided to strike at the Socialists on this topic during the presidential program. "I considered it regrettable that the European socialist Party calls for the accession of Turkey. It will be one of the debates which there will be in France ", he estimated. "the Socialists are for the accession of Turkey, I am not". "To speak about the accession of Turkey while at the same time the European family is not yet reunified, that does not have much direction", he added in front of the press, before returning to Paris.

Sarkozy aimed much of his criticism at Turkey's refusal to fully recognize Cyprus, which has been a major roadblock in EU negotiations:

"I do not even understand why the question arises. If Turkey wants to enter Europe, and you know my reserves, it must initially consider that Europe is twenty-five (states), not twenty-four. It is not a precondition only to recognize the whole of the States which constitute the European Union. It is a principle, it is a peremptory necessity."

The Le Monde article goes on to note that Socialist candidate Segolene Royal has said she is in favor of continued negotiations with Turkey, but if necessary, would hold some kind of referendum to determine the will of the French people with regards to Turkish admission into the EU.

For someone who is a French maverick in terms of foreign policy (admiration of US, support of Israel, etc.) it's really a shame that his strong position against Turkish EU membership is wrong and foolish. Turkey has been part of Europe since the Roman Empire, and in purely realist terms, would be an incredible asset to the EU. The Turkish population is not declining as are those of many Western European nations, their economy is growing, they have the second largest army in NATO, and they are a critical physical, cultural, and political bridge between Europe and the rest of the Eurasian landmass.

Sarkozy thinks that by bringing this issue up he can expose the less than concrete position of the left and play up the fears of many French with regards to further EU integration and Muslims in general. Best wishes to him, but Sarkozy is just entrapping himself in an inescapable political hole: why would the French vote for fear when the other candidate has based her entire campaign on hope?

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