Turkey does not belong in Europe: Sarkozy
September 20, 2007
PARIS (AFP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed on Thursday he did not believe Turkey should be admitted to the European Union, while calling for a "true partnership" with the mainly-Muslim nation.
"I do not believe that Turkey belongs in Europe, and for a simple reason, which is that it is in Asia minor," Sarkozy said in a prime-time interview on TF1 and France 2 television.
"What I wish to offer Turkey is a true partnership with Europe, it is not integration with Europe," said the president, who recently appeared to have softened his opposition to Turkish membership of the European bloc.
Public hostility to Ankara's entry to the EU was seen as one of the reasons for the French rejection of a draft EU constitution in a 2005 referendum.
France has said it would not block discussions on Turkish entry if a group of "wise men" was set up to debate the EU's future over the next two decades -- a proposal which received a lukewarm welcome in Brussels.
Turkey began EU accession negotiations in October 2005 but it has only managed to open four of the 35 chapters, or policy areas, that all candidates must complete to join.
Turkey's talks are expected to last at least a decade, with no guarantee of membership at the end of it all. The process has been hampered by Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot ships and planes.