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Media Watch 2005

03 August 2005
Source: Guardian
Author: David Gow
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 5 August 2005.
France may bar Turkey's EU bid

France yesterday threatened to derail the official start of talks this autumn with Turkey on its entry to the EU by insisting that it recognises Cyprus in advance.

Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, said: "It does not seem conceivable to me that a negotiation process of any kind can start with a country that does not recognise every member state of the European Union, in other words all 25 of them."

But Britain, which holds the EU presidency, and the European commission made it plain that Turkish recognition of Cyprus was not a precondition for talks to begin.

The proposed entry of Turkey is one of the most contentious issues dividing the EU, with French, German and Austrian leaders continuing to voice dismay that the huge, poor, largely Muslim but secular state would stretch its fragile cohesion to breaking point.

Costas Karamanlis, the Greek prime minister, added to the pressure on Turkey by postponing a visit to Ankara - the first by a Greek leader in more than 46 years - until after the accession talks are due to begin.

Last week, Turkey met the final condition for the talks - likely to last 10 years - when it signed the Ankara Protocol, extending its customs union with the EU to the 10 new member states, including divided Cyprus.

Officials in Ankara said Mr de Villepin's comments violated commitments made at the EU summit in December last year, which set October 3 as the date for the entry negotiations to start and did not make recognition of Cyprus a precondition.

The same point was underlined by British and commission officials, with a UK diplomat pointing out that President Jacques Chirac had explicitly said signing the Ankara protocol did not mean recognition of Cyprus.

Britain and Brussels insist that recognition of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974, is a separate issue to be settled within the UN framework."