The prime minister spoke to an audience of 6,000 ethnic Turks living in France at the Zenith Arena late on Wednesday, the second day of his visit to France. Met with great applause when he stepped onto the stage, Erdoğan talked about the rise of Turkey and urged the French Turks to become better represented in the economic, political and social life of the country they are living in.
Stressing that assimilation is different from integration, Erdoğan said no one can demand that a person assimilate. “The demand to assimilate is a crime against humanity,” he said. “No one can ask you to abandon your values, your culture.” Erdoğan said if they want to live in harmony with the society they are living with, they need to integrate into the society in the best way possible.
Reminding his audience that France allows dual citizenship, Erdoğan criticized those who do not apply for French citizenship. “Apply, my brothers. Apply! Use the right to vote and to get elected that France has granted you. This is a great asset, make use of it,” Erdoğan stressed. The prime minister said being a French citizen will not deprive them of their identity. “Why shouldn’t there be some amongst you running for the European Parliament?” Erdoğan asked, urging the Turkish community to be better represented and integrate into French society.
Speaking about Turkey’s European Union membership bid, Erdoğan said Turkey will only strengthen the EU with its young, dynamic and educated population of 73 million. Saying that there are nearly 5.5 million ethnic Turks living in Europe, Erdoğan asked his audience not to end the “Turkish Season” both in France and in other parts of the Europe, after reminding them that they marked the end of the Season of Turkey in France on Wednesday.
“I ask each of you to make more of an effort as an envoy of your country to better promote Turkey here,” the prime minister said.
Saying that they have lifted visas requirements with 23 countries in the past seven-and-a-half years, Erdoğan said Turkey’s face is turned toward the West but it has never turned its back on its eastern neighbors. “We cannot be indifferent to the people with whom we have lived for a thousand years,” Erdoğan underlined.
No deal with France on EU bid
During talks with Erdoğan in Paris earlier in the day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated his opposition to Turkey’s membership in the EU, while Erdoğan repeated that Turkey remains committed to its goal of EU membership and rejected the French and German proposal for a privileged partnership instead.
“We agree to disagree,” French Minister for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche told reporters after Erdoğan met with Prime Minister Francois Fillon. “Turkey has its project, that of integrating with the 27 [EU members]. We respect this project but we have our own project, that of a big Europe, the 27 in a partnership with Russia and Turkey,” Lellouche added.
But the two leaders agreed to work to expand bilateral ties despite disagreements concerning Ankara’s membership bid.