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Chirac says Turkey’s EU entry not desirable now

French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that Turkey’s entry into the European Union is not “desirable” now but could be in the future.
/ Source: The Associated Press

French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that Turkey’s entry into the European Union, which is set to expand to 25 members this week, is not “desirable” now but could be in the future.

Chirac, speaking at his first full-fledged news conference in six years, said Turkey had not yet met the conditions for entry into the EU. He pointed to concern about issues ranging from human rights to judicial reform.

“The destiny of Turkey has always been deeply linked to Europe,” Chirac said. “Turkey has made considerable efforts,” but has a way to go, he said.

Chirac’s comments came weeks after Foreign Minister Michel Barnier told parliament that France would oppose Turkey’s entry into the EU now because it had not met the criteria for entry.

The European Commission in November noted “significant progress” by the Turkish government in meeting EU conditions for membership. However, it cited several areas where more needed to be done.

Sweeping reforms
Predominantly Muslim Turkey has carried out sweeping reforms in the last two years as it tries to meet EU standards. It abolished the death penalty and has granted greater cultural rights to long-oppressed Kurds.

The EU is set to expand from 15 to 25 members on Saturday, and EU leaders are scheduled to decide in December whether to approve Turkey’s candidacy.

Turkey could start membership talks in 2005.

Chirac also said it was too early to decide which method France would use to adopt or reject the proposed European constitution. Nations can either hold a referendum on the constitution or allow their parliaments to decide.

EU foreign ministers agreed Monday to resume negotiations for Europe’s first-ever constitution. The talks are to be finalized at a June 17-18 EU summit, after which the constitution faces ratification in all EU states.

Talks over the charter, which aims to streamline decision-making in the expanded bloc, collapsed in December when Spain and Poland rejected a proposed new voting system they felt gave too much power to the EU’s biggest countries.

Chances for progress improved with the March election of a new government in Spain. Poland — which enters the EU along with nine other newcomers this week — also has signaled a willingness to compromise.