France announced on Feb. 12 that it would assist Turkey in opening one of the five chapters once blocked by Paris for Ankara’s long-stalled EU membership talks.
After meeting with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said they would assist Turkey with opening Article 22, entitled “Regional Policy and Coordination of Structural Instruments.”
“France will extend support to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations. We have told Turkish officials that we will assist them in opening chapter 22 to negotiations. We also had a chance to speak on technical issues. We have reached a consensus on consolidation of friendly relations with Turkey,” Fabius told reporters in Paris.
An international conference on Libya took place in the French capital with the participation of the foreign ministers of 14 countries, including Turkey. Five chapters were unilaterally blocked by France during former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rule, but following the election of François Hollande last year, Paris softened its position on Turkey’s accession process.
Asked about French President Hollande’s visit to Turkey, Fabius said that such a visit was discussed but that no exact date had been set for the visit yet.
Davutoğlu confirmed France’s assistance over opening the chapter. “We have received strong message that France will lift its blockade [on one EU chapter]. We also discussed how Turkey’s membership will contribute to the EU regarding the developments in the Mediterranean dimension. I can say that an important hurdle in Turkey-EU relations will be cleared,” he said in Ankara.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Minister of EU Affairs Egemen Bağis said the chapter regarding regional policies in Turkey’s EU membership process would be opened to negotiations during Ireland’s EU presidency, which started Jan. 1 and will continue until June 30. “We had good news today. The new French government has decided not to continue with the same hurdles of the previous government,” he said during an official visit to London.
Turkish PM tones down criticisms toward EU
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took a break from his harsh rhetoric toward the European Union during a Feb. 11 dinner with the bloc’s envoys to reiterate that Ankara was committed to joining the 27-member union.
Erdoğan was “constructive” despite his recent bold remarks against EU leaders, sources from the bloc told the Hürriyet Daily News. During the gathering, he informed the ambassadors about the understanding which had shaped his recent statements on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Turkey wants to become a dialogue partner with the SCO due to its “360 degree” perspective on foreign policy, Erdoğan said.
The premier on Jan. 25 suggested that Turkey could abandon its EU quest due to hostility from several members in favor of membership in the SCO, whose two most prominent members are Russia and China. He said Turkey was continuing to take the necessary steps to achieve EU membership but added that it was now the bloc’s turn to act.