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France muscles in on Turkey

France muscles in on TurkeyOn May 29th the French Assemblée Nationale took a vote that might have profound impact on whether Turkey joins the European Union in a few years, or not. Making good on what his predecessor Jacques Chirac had promised all along, President Sarkozy and his ruling UMP party introduced a constitutional amendment, which would put future enlargements to include more populous countries – notably, of course, the extension of the Union to Turkey – to a popular vote in France. The Turkish government has been quick to criticize the move as discriminatory, as the amendment only demands a referendum for country's that in size would represent 5% of the EU total population. Thus, such a vote would only be needed for Turkey and Ukraine, the most contested of the current candidates. The move is surely to put a hostile spin on the membership negotiations, which will be led by France once that country takes over the rotating Presidency of the European Council on July 1. Already, tensions have been rising between the two sides, with plenty of finger-pointing as to which side is responsible for the slow pace of negotiations on the so-called chapters, which define the necessary reform steps toward accession.

A referendum in France against the accession could force the hand of the government (handing the responsibility over to the people might allow the then-government to save face toward their Head-of-State counterparts, while playing the popular democratic card) to vote ‘No’ in the Council. As the enlargement of the Union requires unanimity in the Council, and depending on the pro and con campaigns once Turkey's membership comes up for the vote, this could mean the end of the country's hopes toward becoming one of the largest and most populous in the Union.

 

Author

Cathryn Cluver

Cathryn Cluver is a journalist and EU analyst. Now based in Hamburg, Germany, she previously worked at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, Belgium, where she was Deputy Editor of the EU policy journal, Challenge Europe. Prior to that, she was a producer with CNN-International in Atlanta and London. Cathryn graduated from the London School of Economics with a Master's Degree in European Studies and holds a BA with honors from Brown University in International Relations.

Areas of Focus:
Refugees; Immigration; Europe

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