STOCKHOLM (AP)–Sweden’s prime minister says he will try to open a new chapter in Turkey’s bid to join the European Union when his country assumes the EU presidency.
Fredik Reinfeldt told the AP on Thursday that membership negotiations with Turkey are of «utmost strategic importance for Europe» but added it was one of the most divisive issues in the 27-member bloc.
Turkey’s EU membership talks have stalled over human rights problems and Turkey’s refusal to recognize EU member Cyprus and open its ports to Cypriot ships and planes.
Reinfeldt said “we will try our best” to resume the negotiations after Sweden takes over the six-month EU presidency from the Czech Republic next week.
In related news, France’s new minister for Europe, who has previously said he wanted Turkey to join the EU, said Wednesday he would carry out his governments policy of keeping Ankara out of the bloc.
“There is one government policy, there are not two, and it is the governments policy that I will carry out,” said Pierre Lellouche, who was appointed in a reshuffle of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government.
Lellouche was previously France’s envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and is known for his pro-US stance.
Turkey reacted enthusiastically to his nomination. “This is wonderful information,” said Egemen Bagis, the Turkish minister in charge of EU negotiations.
“Mr Lellouche is someone whose opinion has been known in France for a long time to support Turkey’s accession (to the EU), and now he has been named to head European affairs,” he said.
France and Germany lead opposition to Turkey’s membership of the EU.
Turkey began EU membership talks in 2005, and has begun negotiations in 10 of the 35 policy areas that candidate countries must bring into line with EU rules.