Now that Sarkozy has gone, Turkey hopes to open chapter in EU talks

Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and Francois Hollande. (Photo: Reuters)

May 13, 2012, Sunday/ 15:45:00

Turkish diplomats hope that Turkey's bid to join the European Union can finally make some progress following a two-year hiatus after Nicolas Sarkozy lost the race for a new term as president of France to socialist contender François Hollande.

Sarkozy, a fierce opponent of Turkey's membership in the EU, blocked accession talks with Turkey on five chapters of negotiations that Paris says are directly related to accession. Contrary to Sarkozy, Hollande has spoken in favorable terms of Turkey's EU bid, raising prospects that his election victory could unblock talks on the five chapters.

According to diplomatic sources speaking to Today's Zaman, Turkey and the EU could open talks on the “economic and monetary policy” chapter, one of the 35 negotiating chapters that candidate Turkey should successfully negotiate with the EU in order to become a member. France, under Sarkozy, said the chapter on economic and monetary policy was directly related to accession. The other four chapters are “agriculture and rural development,” “regional policy and coordination of structural instruments,” “institutions” and “financial and budgetary provisions.” The chapter on economic and monetary policy has no opening "benchmarks," meaning the talks on it could begin immediately in the event the French block is lifted.

Turkish officials hope that the talks on the economic and monetary chapter can begin by July 1, when current president Denmark hands over the EU presidency to 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.  Denmark is eager to open talks with Turkey on a new chapter, according to the diplomatic sources, 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.

Diplomats say Hollande may lift the French block on Turkey's accession talks following parliamentary elections slated for June 10 and 17. French diplomats in Brussels have already started working on the possible opening of talks with the EU on economic and monetary policy but have not yet received any directive from Paris to that effect, according to the same sources.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU, but they stalled due to the Cyprus dispute and amid opposition from some EU member countries to Turkish accession, including, most notably, France.

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