The leaders of France and Germany have offered strong statements of support to Turkey’s bid to join the EU.
At a joint Franco-German summit meeting yesterday in Berlin—to which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also invited—French President Jacques Chirac said it was his “strongest wish” to see Ankara in the EU.
Turkey’s accession is “in the interests of Europe, in the interests of Turkey and in the interests of peace and democracy in the world and in the region”, he said, according to French media.
And France and Germany would work together in the hope that a successful conclusion can be brought to the negotiations, he added.
Opposition at home
However, both leaders face strong political and public opposition at home for their stance.
In Germany, the opposition centre-right parties have called for a “special partnership” with Turkey rather than membership and have played on German fears of a wave of Turkish immigrants after accession.
And in France, a recent poll showed that 75 percent of people were opposed to Ankara joining the club.
A yes—but not without qualifications
Mr Chirac qualified his support for Turkey’s entry by recalling that the negotiations would take “10 to 15 years” and will demand “a very great effort” on Turkey’s part.
He also warned that voters should not confuse the issue of Turkey with that of the Constitution.
He has promised a referendum on any future EU enlargement and a referendum on the Constitution is set to be held next year.
Mr Erdogan was in Berlin to sign a major contract worth 2.2 billion euro to buy 36 Airbus aircraft for the public owned Turkish Airlines.