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Turkey : Negotiation Doesn’t Mean Accession

Turkey : Negotiation Doesn’t Mean Accession

Press conference given by Jacques Chirac, President of the French Republic, following the European Council in Brussels on December 17, 2004. Source: Embassy of France in the United States.

Jacques Chirac: I’d like to begin by expressing to the Dutch presidency, and in particular the Prime Minister, Mr Balkenende, my respect and gratitude. The Dutch presidency took on a tough task and then made a remarkable job of it, one worthy of compliment.

  • Turkey/EU

    The first issue on the agenda was obviously the opening of negotiations with Turkey. It was the subject of our talks over yesterday evening’s working dinner. I remind you that, on the basis of a report and favourable recommendation from the Commission, the European Council today considered that the conditions had in fact been met for opening negotiations with Turkey on a date next year, which has been decided, 3 October, provided, of course, that the Turks have by then accepted the recommendation regarding Cyprus and signed the [Protocol on the adaptation of the] Ankara Declaration.

I explained to the French at length two days ago – I won’t go back over it – why I considered it in Europe’s interest generally, and France’s in particular, to start this negotiation, whilst being perfectly aware that “negotiation” doesn’t mean “accession” since Turkey needs to make a considerable effort to fulfil all of what we call the Copenhagen criteria, i.e. everything to do with human rights and the market economy.

Indeed, I firmly believe that the best way to bolster and entrench stability and peace in our region, to strengthen and, here too, ensure the upholding of human rights, the principles of democracy, freedoms and also market economy rules and our social model is to have an entity which is as large and powerful and as stable as possible for the future.

This European Council decision shows how much progress Turkey has made over recent years in carrying out far-reaching reforms, moving closer to Europe and adopting the principles, the rules shared by all Europeans. And I readily acknowledge the tremendous effort accomplished in this respect, just as we’ve all recognized the tremendous effort Turkey has made in this sphere and I want to salute it.

But, I repeat, opening these negotiations doesn’t mean accession. And the road will be long, it will be difficult for Turkey to satisfy all the conditions required to join Europe quite simply because she has to adopt, one by one, all the political, economic, social and environmental values and rules applying in the EU, which I’ve just talked about. And I’ve already said – and everyone accepts it – that this process will probably last ten or 15 years and that we can’t say, in advance, what the outcome of these negotiations will be.

The European Council also decided that the conclusion of these negotiations with Turkey could not, whatever happens, be envisaged before the decisions had been taken on the financial perspective for the post 2014 period in order to mark out the path ahead.

The European Council has taken a whole series of measures to guarantee that these negotiations will be conducted diligently, that goes without saying, rigorously – i.e. there’s no question of seeking compromises on what’s essential, i.e. what we call the Copenhagen criteria –, transparently, and above all under the continuous control of all member States, so every member State.

Let me remind you that, as in any intergovernmental conference, the opening and closing of every chapter in the negotiations requires unanimity; there has to be unanimity in every area of the acquis communautaire, taken one by one.

    Second point, a chapter can be closed only if Turkey has taken concrete decisions to carry out her commitments, has implemented them and this has been verified.

    Thirdly, if necessary, it will be possible to provide for and bring in lengthy transitional periods and permanent safeguard clauses.

Finally, in the event of human rights violations – I don't even want to imagine this, but everything is possible in the life of mankind – in the event of the violation of human rights and basic freedoms in Turkey, the Council will decide on the immediate suspension of these negotiations.

I also repeat, since I'm not sure that this has always been exactly understood: it's a State-to-State negotiation between the 25 EU countries on one side, and Turkey on the other. A negotiation in which every one of the 25 EU States will retain its total freedom of assessment from the beginning to the end of the negotiations and will, at any moment, if it so wishes, if it deems necessary, if its general public and its government so wish, end these negotiations.

At the opening of these negotiations, Europe is setting itself a goal: Turkey's accession. Since she is being asked to make an altogether gigantic reform effort, we can't, at the start, ask her to make such a substantial effort – change her habits, her traditions, her culture – if the goal weren’t, let me say, commensurate with this effort. But of course, when these negotiations open, no one can prejudge its outcome. One can never prejudge the outcome of a negotiation and so we have to be realistic.

Things may go badly, there may be a crisis, whether Turkish or European in origin, at which point the negotiations would of course break down. Turkey may, for reasons of her own, not succeed in making all the efforts necessary to join us, which aren't negotiable, are known and clear from the outset: the famous Copenhagen criteria. It goes without saying that if Turkey proved not to want or to be unable to commit to all these reforms, then the EU will put in place with Turkey a sufficiently strong bond which isn't accession. And this is what the text we have adopted today envisages. That's what I wanted to say on Turkey.

  • EU/Bulgaria/Romania/Croatia

Aside from Turkey, the European Council took two other important decisions: conclusion of the negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania, with the common treaty being signed next spring looking ahead to these two countries joining the EU in January 2007, and the opening in March 2005, i.e. next March, of accession negotiations with Croatia.

  • UN Secretary General

Finally, I want warmly to thank the Dutch Presidency who invited Kofi Annan, which gave us the opportunity to reaffirm to him our wholehearted confidence in him and our total support for the courageous, determined, intelligent work he's putting his heart into as head of the United Nations. By welcoming him today, Europe has reaffirmed its commitment to multilateralism and confirmed to him that it will make active efforts to make next September's United Nations summit a great success.

That's a summary of what we have done today and I'm quite ready to answer your questions.

  • Turkey/Armenian Genocide

Question: Today is a very important date, but given that the issue of the Armenian genocide wasn't part of the conditions, it wasn't of course discussed. So today negotiations are open and my question is this: in ten or 15 years' time, in the event of the fulfilment of all the other conditions, is the European Union going to admit Turkey as a full member if she hasn't recognized the Armenian genocide?

Jacques Chirac: I'd like first to remind the French in general, Europeans, other peoples of the world and particularly the Turks that France is particularly sensitive to this subject. She's sensitive because in 1915 she opened her doors and welcomed in a large number of Armenian victims.

Consequently, we have in France a community of Armenian origin which is in fact exceptionally well integrated in our country and has brought it many assets in the cultural, technical and scientific spheres, etc., a community of people who, and this is understandable, have engraved what happened in 1915 on their hearts and minds.

This is why France can't ignore this aspect of things. The whole history of building Europe is the history of dialogue, respect for the Other and recognition of the errors we may have made in the past, all of us, and in many capacities. In the past which has been scarred by so many wars and so many horrors, the process of remembrance is, I'd say, totally natural to Europeans. And it has to be deemed a necessity which to my mind can't be evaded and I mean "can't be evaded". And, to tell you what I feel, I can't imagine Turkey, for moral even more than political reasons, being unable to carry out the necessary process of remembrance.

So I am convinced she will do so. Now you will say to me: and if by any chance she didn’t? As you know, whatever happens, there will be an accession treaty in ten years, in 15 years, and this accession treaty – we'll come back to it later perhaps – will have to be ratified by referendum and not by parliament, since I've always said that for such an important matter the French had to have the final say. And I don't doubt for an instant that if this process of remembrance hadn't been carried out, the French would take the greatest account of this in their judgement on the possible accession treaty.

  • Turkey/Kurds

Question: I'd like to ask a question on the Kurds. As you know, there are 20 million Kurds in Turkey who are at this moment awaiting a message regarding the resolution of the Kurdish issue. Will you be asking Turkey to open a dialogue with the Kurdish combatants who have been fighting for their cause for 30 years?

Jacques Chirac: Just now I talked about the Copenhagen criteria which, by definition, involve observing human rights. Consequently, this applies to those of the Kurds as it does to everyone else’s. And here too, when Turkey takes these Copenhagen criteria on board, she will have to accept all the consequences, including for the Kurds. You know, one of the reasons justifying the importance I personally attach to these negotiations and, I hope, their successful conclusion, is that there's no other way of entrenching in that great region respect for human rights, religious freedom, gender parity and all our principles. If all this isn't spontaneous, it has to be imposed and, once that's done, it has to become part of the culture of those concerned. It's the best way, and the negotiation – and I hope Turkey's accession – will definitively bolster these principles of peace, dialogue and especially respect for human rights which we call the Copenhagen criteria.

  • Cyprus

Question: Yesterday the Twenty-Five proposed an agreement on Cyprus requiring Mr Erdogan to initial the additional protocol to the Customs Union Treaty including Cyprus, which was tantamount to recognition. What arguments did Mr Erdogan put forward for not doing so and what has the Turkish Prime Minister pledged to do on the Cyprus issue before 3 October? Is there a written declaration?

Jacques Chirac: As you can well understand, Cyprus is a member State; it's inconceivable, in an accession process, for a third State to choose the States it recognizes and those it doesn't. Consequently, recognition of every State is the very basis of accession.

Turkey has given her agreement, through a declaration, to sign the Ankara Protocol. The presidency has proposed a text which everyone has approved, under the terms of which the negotiations scheduled to open, if all goes well, on 3 October, can do so only if this protocol has been signed. In other words, it's for Turkey to choose: either she signs the Ankara Protocol, then that’s fine, the negotiations start. Or she feels she can't or doesn't want to sign the Ankara Protocol, for reasons of her own, and then the negotiations don't start. That's absolutely clear.

  • Turkey / Agriculture / CAP

Question: Reading the rising number of safeguard clauses, derogations and spheres to which these could apply, we get the feeling that without a radical reform of its common policies, Europe will, in any case, be able to offer Turkey only a status of second-class citizen. Take an example you're perfectly familiar with, agriculture: either the CAP is radically reformed, and Turkey joining the European Union will be able to benefit from it, or it stays as it is beyond 2014, and Turkey will inevitably be excluded from it. Has this choice been clearly explained to the Turkish authorities?

Jacques Chirac: I take the liberty of telling you that, particularly on a subject dear to me and to which I attach the highest importance, the future of French agriculture, which is a key to our country's economy and international competitiveness, I can't follow you at all. First of all, I can tell you straightaway that there is no possibility whatsoever of us offering Turkey what you refer to as second-class-citizen status.

The very idea is inconceivable and it couldn’t even have crossed anyone’s mind. Turkey will participate in all the policies. But I can't see anything at all that could happen between now and 2014 – in the way of current and future changes to the Common Agricultural Policy – which could result in any incompatibility between Turkey's accession in ten or 15 years' time and the development of a Common Agricultural Policy which has been going on for 15 years. Today the Common Agricultural Policy (...) is nothing like what it was ten years ago. It's a completely different policy and, regardless of whether Turkey joins, the Common Agricultural Policy will go on evolving.

  • Ukraine

Question: What are Ukraine's prospects of joining Europe since the "orange revolution" we have lived through? And if they exist, how could they be realized?

Jacques Chirac: As you know, we have discussed the link between Ukraine and the European Union, particularly during the last European Council. We restated that Ukraine is what we call a "key partner", i.e. in the framework of the European Union's neighbourhood policy, we have drawn up an ambitious action plan designed to develop our cooperation with Ukraine in every sphere.

I now hope that the 26 December elections allow Ukraine to decide on her future under conditions of law and order, and, of course, I totally support the principles of the neighbourhood policy which the European Union has envisaged for Ukraine and a number of other countries.

  • Turkey/Accession Negociations / Constitutional Treaty Referendum

Question: So the negotiations are scheduled to open on 3 October. If I've understood it right, it was deemed preferable to distance this date from that of the referendum on the Constitution, in order to avoid confusion. Does this mean the referendum will take place in June?

Jacques Chirac: Firstly, you are right to stress that some people might be tempted to conflate two problems which have absolutely nothing to do with each other: approval or non-approval of the Constitutional Treaty, and the start of accession negotiations with Turkey. There is absolutely no connection between them.

And, moreover, let me tell you straightaway that this is why, as far as I am concerned, I went along with the date proposed by the presidency. To tell the truth I would have gone along with any technically-acceptable date proposed by the presidency. We are well aware that there's some essential preparatory work, which will take a few months, and I would have gone along with any date.

Let me remind you that the French are going to be called on to give their view on the Constitutional Treaty which has, I repeat, no connection with Turkey. What is the Constitutional Treaty? It's a reform designed to give the European Union the means to govern itself more effectively than before. It's an absolute necessity.

If the Constitutional Treaty is rejected, it means us sticking to the previous system. What are the advantages of the Treaty which is going to be subjected to a referendum over the previous system? Modernization, more efficient management and – pardon me for saying this, but everyone also defends their country's interests – a significant increase in France's political weight in the European system.

This has nothing to do with Turkey, so I’m keen for there to be no conflation, which could result only from political – not to say petty political – ulterior motives, which we would be well advised to avoid.

  • Cyprus

Question: People are hushing up the fact that Turkey still illegally occupies northern Cyprus. The impression is given that the Annan plan, which has, however, been rejected by the Greek Cypriot president and the Greek Cypriots in a referendum, is the panacea and that, in time, the Turks are going to end up leaving the island. But they still illegally occupy it according to international law.

Jacques Chirac: I've answered your question: we've got an agreement, with the agreement of the Cypriots of course and the President of Cyprus, Mr Papadopoulos. The discussion was a long and tough one, but we got the agreement. One of two things will happen: either it will be observed and the negotiations will start, or it won't be observed and the negotiations won't start.

  • Turkey/Europe/Asia

Question: Two short questions: doesn't Turkey's arrival raise the issue of Europe's borders, when we know it will have Syria, Iran, Iraq as neighbours? And secondly, regarding a referendum in ten or 15 years' time, after being engaged for ten or 15 years, can one at that point conceivably say "no" to Turkey?

Jacques Chirac: On these two questions (...) you know, the whole history of Turkey since the Roman Empire – I've already said this – has been one of a country which has tilted sometimes towards Asia, sometimes towards Europe. That's how it is. No one can in fact say whether Turkey is European or not European. Her whole history shows that she's sometimes tilted towards Asia, sometimes towards Europe. So that's not the problem.

The problem is knowing what today is in our interest: is it today in our interest for Turkey to tilt towards Asia or towards Europe? If you take as your goals the securing of stability around us, strengthening peace and thereby entrenching human rights, which Europe also aspires to do, then we don't need to keep on asking ourselves that question over and over again.

Obviously it's better for Turkey to tilt towards Europe. This is without any doubt the best way of securing peace on our current borders and entrenching human rights in the general sense of the term, i.e. gender parity, religious freedoms, etc. It's obviously in our interest, that's the issue, it isn’t that of knowing whether she is, on our atlases, one colour or another.

Now you say that if we've been engaged for 15 years, what can we do? Personally I think that after a 15-year engagement we'll have found the way to persuade everyone. I am absolutely certain of the strength of the ideas Europe is spreading in the political arena, as regards dialogue and respect for the Other, and in the development sphere too, this is very important. And I am sure that, given the current feelings of the Turks, their history and their culture, I am absolutely convinced that at the end of this path which we shall be treading together will lie a marriage which will be to the advantage of both parties.

But if this weren't the case, I repeat, we would realize it, and at that point everyone will remain free to choose, to decide for themselves. Can one imagine a more democratic procedure than saying to the French "whatever happens and through the most democratic means possible, guaranteed by the imminent reform of the [French] Constitution, you will have the final say".

So I can reassure you on this point, because I’ve also heard it said: “but why hasn’t there been more debate on this?” Naturally, Parliament will be kept constantly informed in detail about everything done in these negotiations. I reiterate that negotiation doesn’t mean accession. This isn’t a decision, really all the heads of State and government will be doing is negotiating.

Afterwards, the next step will quite obviously be to sign. Let me reassure you, I’ve done everything to ensure that Parliament is kept permanently informed of all developments, can make its contribution, give its reactions, and that, above all, it’s the French who will decide. And, I repeat, through the most democratic way there is: a referendum./.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).