France’s opposition to Turkey joining the EU continues as the French president Nicolas Sarkozy has just paid his first visit to Turkey in his capacity as the chairman of G 20.
Sarkozy met with the prime minister and president of Turkey during a brief working visit, the aim of which was to gain Ankara’s support for France’s term of leadership of the G 20.
Although Sarkozy emphasised Turkeys importance in world politics and spoke of the need to gain the countries support for the French presidency of the EU he reiterated his opposition to Turkish membership of the European Union. Sarkozy feels that there should be an alternative to full membership of the European Union, and stated his preference for a privileged partnership with Turkey, which is an option Ankara refuses to entertain.
Sarkozy is said to prefer this option because of the fact that Turkey is an extremely large country, and because its role as a bridge between the East and West. While he believes it is necessary for the EU to have close relations with Turkey he doesn’t believe full membership to be beneficial either to the EU or to Turkey.
In spite of this disagreement the Turkish president is hopeful that Sarkozy will pay a state visit to Turkey later this year, this time in his role as the President of France. Trade between the two countries totalled €12 billion in 2010, with France being amongst the largest foreign investors in the country.
Talks during this visit were focused on Turkey’s EU membership process and Turkey reminded France that it expects the EU to keep promises made to Turkey, and that their bid for accession would not face artificial obstructions. The Turkish prime minister is talking with first Germany and then the EU commission president about the membership process this week.
Sarkozy acknowledged the difference of opinion but feels a resolution can be found through continuing dialogue, and stated that he considers Turkey to be an important country due to its strategic geographic position, and that Ankara’s support was essential in order for the French agenda to advance during their term of the G 20 presidency.
The meeting also touched upon the problems within the Middle East, as Turkey is reluctant to impose sanctions against Libya, feeling that these would hurt the already impoverished Libyan population. Sarkozy is said to feel that the Turkish position on sanctions does not amount to a disagreement although France believes that Gaddafi has to go. Turkey has 30,000 nationals in Libya whose evacuation is a top priority.