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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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./.