France Wants Special EU Partnership With Turkey and Not Membership

PARIS (AFP)–France supports a special partnership between the European Union and Turkey but not full membership for the mainly Muslim country, the new state minister for European affairs said Tuesday. France will "act in such a way to try to find ways to create a special partnership between the EU and Turkey," Socialist Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who was appointed Friday to the rightwing government, told RTL radio. President Nicolas Sarkozy opposes Turkish membership of the European Union, arguing that the country belongs in Asia and that the 27-nation bloc, which has taken in 12 new members since 2004, should consolidate its new borders. The issue of Turkish membership in the EU is expected to be discussed when Sarkozy travels to Brussels on Wednesday for his first meeting with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso since taking office last week. The problem of Turkey "is a problem of defining Europe’s borders and we cannot keep going indefinitely" with enlargement, said Jouyet. Sarkozy advocates a Mediterranean Union between countries along the Mediterranean rim in Europe, the Middle East and north Africa, including Turkey, to boost regional cooperation. But the proposals have met with suspicion in Turkey which sees them as a compromise that falls well short of full EU membership. EU countries are to decide before the end of June whether to open up new negotiations with Turkey on its future membership and France could put the brakes on the talks. But France is hoping to avoid a clash over Turkey at a time when Sarkozy is pushing for approval of an EU mini-treaty that would break the impasse over the Dutch and French rejection of the EU constitution two years ago. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul last week urged Sarkozy to respect agreemen’s that recognized Turkey’s aspirations to join the EU.

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