Turkey's stalled bid to join the European Union could receive a fresh boost in the wake of elections in France, which saw Nicolas Sarkozy lose the race for a new term as president, according to Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
“We believe a revival is possible because there are a number of practical areas in which we can achieve progress,” Westerwelle was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoğlu, late on Monday in Ankara. “What is important is to seize the opportunity that emerged after the latest elections in Europe and restart Turkey-EU ties.”
Davutoğlu agreed, saying: “What we all hope for is a positive acceleration of Turkey-EU relations following Mr. [François] Hollande's election in France.”
Sarkozy, a staunch opponent of Turkey's membership in the EU, handed over his post to Hollande on Tuesday. Hollande's election has raised hopes in Turkey for a breakthrough in the EU bid, stalled for two years, since France may now lift a blockade on accession talks on five negotiating chapters imposed by Sarkozy.
France under Sarkozy, who claims Turkey does not culturally belong to Europe, has said it would block talks on five negotiating chapters that it says are directly related to accession. Diplomats have recently told Today's Zaman that France may lift its veto on these five chapters following parliamentary elections later in May.
Turkey and the EU opened accession talks in 2005 but progress has been very slow since then due to the unresolved Cyprus dispute and opposition to Turkish membership from some member states, including France.
Out of 35 chapters, which have to be successfully negotiated by any candidate country as a condition for membership, only 13 have been opened, 17 are blocked, four have not been opened yet, and only one is provisionally closed -- the science and research chapter.
Diplomats say talks may begin soon on one of the five chapters blocked by France, namely “Economic and Monetary Policy,” by July 1, when the EU term presidency, currently held by Denmark, is taken over by Greek Cyprus. No progress is expected in the talks in the second half of 2012, when Greek Cyprus will be at the helm of the EU, because Turkey does not recognize Greek Cyprus and has declared it will have no dialogue with the EU presidency, even if this is in order to open accession talks on new chapters.
Davutoğlu reiterated on Tuesday that Turkey will not have any dialogue with the EU term presidency after the Greek Cypriot administration takes over the bloc's rotating presidency.
Denmark is reportedly eager to open talks with Turkey on a new chapter, thus getting the credit for breaking the two-year stalemate in the Turkish accession bid. The last time Turkey and the EU opened talks on a negotiating chapter was in June 2010, when the two sides began talks on “food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy,” during Spain's presidency.
Westerwelle said Germany was willing to contribute to efforts to revive the stalled accession process. “We want new chapters to be opened and [Turkish-EU] relations to be revived,” he said.
He said Turkey's accomplishments in the economic and political fields amount to a “breathtaking” success story, boosting Ankara's standing as a foreign policy actor. “We want to be in cooperation with Turkey not only in economic but also in political and strategic areas,” he said.
Davutoğlu said the opening of talks on new chapters would be a “very important sign,” indicating that the new French administration values Turkish-EU ties.
Under Sarkozy, France acted in close cooperation with Germany in many foreign policy issues, even though conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel has had a softer stance towards Turkish membership in the EU.
Hollande was due to travel to Berlin hours after he was sworn in as French president for talks with Merkel.
The two ministers also responded to questions on growing racism in Europe. “I assure you that there is no room for the extreme right, violence and intolerant views. We will fight with determinism against the extreme right and xenophobia,” he said.