France Confirms Change of Heart on Turkey's EU Accession
French Foreign minister Laurent Fabius leaves at the end of a special European Foreign Minister council meeting on the Mali crisis, at the EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 17 January 2013. Photo by EPA/BGNES
France, a long-term opponent of Turkish EU accession, has softened its stance, saying it wants to give a new impetus to EU-Turkey relations.
"We are favourable to the idea of opening talks on what is called chapter 22," French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris after meeting his Turkish counterpart on the margins of a conference on Libya.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry later the same day confirmed that France, a long-term opponent of Turkish EU accession, has had a change of heart, but pointed out Paris also expects Ankara to "contribute concretely to this dynamic."
"France wants to give a new impetus to EU-Turkey relations. It expects Turkey to contribute actively to this process," said the spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry.
"There is every reason to develop our relations in the economic, political, cultural and other realms. It is in that spirit that I met my colleague. Things are going well," added Fabius.
EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fuele welcomed the French development.
"France's signal of readiness for the EU to restart discussions on regional policy with Turkey adds to momentum to make 2013 a turning point in our relations," he tweeted.
Ankara's accession negotiations opened in 2005 but have made no headway due to the hostility of European countries like France and Germany to full Turkish membership, but also to blockading by Ankara.
Turkey refuses to extend the benefit of its free trade agreement with the Union (Ankara Agreement) to Cyprus, an EU member state under Greek Cypriot administration. This refusal led the EU Council to freeze eight chapters, while Nicosia blocked another six.
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