THE PRESIDENT – I also want to talk about the negotiations on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Those negotiations were begun in 2004. Jacques Chirac was French President. The negotiations must continue, transparently, in good faith and respectfully. As President Gül said, negotiation doesn’t mean accession. We’ll see at the end. And it’s true that as far as France is concerned, it will be possible, when the time comes, to talk about accession only through a referendum. Moreover, we’re not the only country to have set this condition. But that doesn’t mean we mustn’t continue our discussions, our negotiations, chapter by chapter. So France has removed what seemed to be an obstacle, which was of no importance to regional policy anyway: we’ve been able to open a new chapter. There are 35. We still have a lot to do, and we’re ready – particularly on the chapters concerning the rule of law, fundamental freedoms and the independence of the justice system – to look at what we can do together. And it will also be useful, I think, for Turkey’s responsibility and commitment. So on those issues, it’s possible to make progress. In any case, we’re ready for it.
We, Europe and Turkey, have also already signed – and I thank the Turkish authorities for it – an agreement on immigration matters, which are always sensitive, and Turkey itself got involved in this, with this readmission agreement that enables illegal immigration to EU countries to be controlled. We know that some illegal immigration passes through Turkey, while not being immigration from Turkey, from the Turks themselves. So it was necessary to have this control process, and there too Turkey has taken an important step.
Finally, we have this issue of the customs union, a major subject for Turkey. The customs union between Turkey and Europe dates back to 1996 and plays no small part in the development of trade. And we must do everything to ensure that this customs union is as clear as possible; I perfectly understood a demand that came from President Gül saying, “we too want to have our say in relation to Europe’s negotiations”, particularly with the United States, for a trade agreement. (…)
Q. – In 2004 you expressed support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Are you still personally in favour of it, and would you like to unblock the four chapters still blocked by France, at a time when there’s a political crisis in this country, Turkey?
You recalled that in 2004 I approved President Chirac’s decision, on behalf of France and on behalf of Europe, to begin the negotiation process. I still take this line. A process is under way: 35 chapters are provided for. For the time being, only 14 chapters have been dealt with since 2004.
So the process must be continued with the most difficult – necessarily the most difficult – subjects. How will it end?
No date is set; it’ll be at the end of the process, when all the chapters have been dealt with, if they are dealt with. And then, depending on the responses the peoples concerned give you, if a decision on possible accession were taken – and I mean if it “were taken” –, if that’s the case, then it’ll be put to a referendum in France anyway.
So it’s pointless to stir up fears of any kind. The French people will have the last word anyway. But the date isn’t even being mentioned today, and there’s still a long way to go, but what I must say on France’s behalf is that this process must continue. (…) Moreover, during the previous five-year term, 12 chapters were settled.
The chapters I think I can put up for discussion are precisely the ones relating to the subjects at issue in Turkey today: the separation of powers; fundamental freedoms; the rule of law; justice. So the negotiation process may also enable Turkey to change and show what it’s capable of, and that’s the response the Turks will have to make./.