Ankara hopes presidential responsibility will mellow Sarkozy

May 08, 2007, Tuesday/ 19:46:00
Although the new French president's opposition to Turkey's EU bid formed a definite part of his pitch to attract voters who rejected the EU constitution in 2005, the Turkish capital said that Nicolas Sarkozy will eventually "come to his senses" concerning the strategic vitality of Turkey's relations with both France and the EU -- noting that assuming the full responsibility of the presidential office is different than staging popular election propaganda on the streets.Invited by reporters to comment on Sarkozy's presidency as he came to his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) headquarters in Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan noted that the election of Sarkozy was the French people's prerogative. "We have to respect the decision of the French people," Erdoğan added.

"In regards to both [Turkey's] EU process and French-Turkish relations, our wish is that from now on we do not see the same statements that Sarkozy has made in election meetings in our bilateral relations," he added, in an apparent reference to Sarkozy's staunch objection to Turkey's EU bid, which he displayed up until the very last minute of his presidential campaign.With 75 percent of the vote counted, the conservative Sarkozy had 53.35 percent of the vote compared to 46.65 percent for Socialist Segolene Royal, according to the French Interior Ministry. Turnout was a strong 85 percent. Sarkozy argues that most of Turkey’s territory is in Asia and that the idea of united Europe would be diluted if its borders stretched that far. Similar to EU term president Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, he has consistently favored an unofficial offer to Turkey of a “privileged partnership” status, rather than its target of full membership of the EU.

“I don’t know. We will see his practices from now on,” Erdoğan briefly said, in response to questions as to whether Sarkozy’s policies could have a negative impact on Turkey’s already turbulent membership talks, taking into consideration the fact that “two of three powerful EU countries have already been against Turkey’s full membership.”

Journalists were apparently referring to the fact that there could emerge a spontaneous alliance between Sarkozy and Merkel, and that Britain, another powerful EU member, has been a firm supporter of Turkey’s EU bid. Asked whether he held any contacts with the French leader or congratulated him, Erdoğan replied: “We’ve already sent a written congratulation.”

Diplomatic sources, speaking under condition of anonymity, told Today’s Zaman on Monday that they expected Sarkozy to assume a softer line toward Turkey’s EU aspirations since he would eventually notice the difference between holding the responsibility of a presidential election campaign and holding the heavyweight responsibility of a presidential office. In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has appealed to Sarkozy not to block entry talks with Turkey, which started in 2005 but are expected to last at least a decade, while also congratulating him. “We negotiate with Turkey on the basis of a mandate that was decided unanimously with the [EU] member states,” Barroso told reporters on Sunday when asked about Sarkozy’s stance on Turkey’s EU bid, urging France to wait until the accession negotiations with Ankara had come to an end.

“The commission’s position is that we should continue these negotiations and we recommend to the member states only to make a decision on whether or not Turkey should join based on the results of these negotiations,” Barroso also said.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Social Democracy Foundation (SODEV) on Monday released a press statement titled “Alas Sarkozy!” in which it criticized Sarkozy’s populist stance regarding Turkey’s EU bid.

“The new French president’s closeness to the US as well as its view concerning Turkey has the potential of rupturing the EU from inside. Problematic days are ahead for French political close to people as well as for its ghettos. Turkey should be careful regarding Sarkozian France’s new departures. Taking the ‘correct’ side regarding problems that will be created by Sarkozy will be important for the position that Turkey will hold in the global political system and for Turkey-EU relations,” the SODEV statement said.

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