17 November 2004
After a short break, Turkey has taken back his dominant role in French press. The debate about Turkey's membership to the European Union, that lost its popularity because of the death of Yasser Arafat, reentered to the political agenda. The declaration of French President Jacques Chirac has both strengthen his isolated position and reopened the debate. Repeating his support for Turkey's membership made the opposition leaders and French public suspicious against him before the Presidential election. The public opposition against Turkey has become more and more obsessive while the head of the State has continued to preserve his pro-Turkey stance. For instance, lastly, Monday (15/11) a group of young people organized a huge manifesto against Turkey's accession to the European Union in Lyon, as Le Monde reported. This is just a ÔÇİstart' according to French Press.
As Le Monde reported, in a conference that took place in Marseilles, French President Jacques Chirac declared that "to believe that Turkey is not a European state is meaningless". According to Chirac, limiting Europe geographically is another mistake and he added that "We are all children of Byzantine." The membership of Turkey to the European Union is an historical obligation. For the President, Turkey's partnership will be very beneficial for Europe. Furthermore, he also stated that after the December 17th, European leaders will decide on whether accession talks with Turkey should start or not, in a five years period if obstacles against Turkey's entry will continue the Union will find another alternative solution. However, if Turkey will totally meet all criteria the partnership should begin as soon as possible because, as he stressed, democracy and human rights do not have geographical limits.
The declaration of the President was also criticized by Francois Bayrou, the leader of Union of French Democracy (UDF) Party. Two weeks ago (5/11) Bayrou insisted on fresh parliamentary debate regarding Turkey's bid to join the European Union, and calls on Parliament to vote on a proposal offering Turkey a "privileged partnership" instead of full membership. Bayrou, lead opponent of Turkish membership, considered Chirac's declaration as a new historical interpretation. As the latest declarations prove, it can be said that the debate about Turkey will change rotation in France. The historical dilemmas will be added to the political ones.
Moreover, the interview made with former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard by the journalists of Le Figaro includes important interpretations about Turkey. He stated that "Do not revive the dream of Carolinge!" and added that the membership of Turkey will make a big contribution to the Union. Rocard stressed that, especially after 9/11 attack the opposition against Muslim world has increased rapidly, and Turkey should be aware of this situation. For him, Huntington's prediction of "clash of civilizations" has become a real threat and Turkey's partnership will help to ameliorate the current world system. Former French Prime Minister stated also that Turkey will be a major contributor to the world peace. Therefore, it can be said that Turkey enters to a very critical period. The choice between to be a children of Byzantine or to be a major contributor to the world peace will define its role in the European political agenda.
Short List of the Articles on Turkey on The French Press
European Union: The Skeptics Against Turkey Harden Their (UE: Les Turcosceptiques Durcissent Leurs Positions/Le Monde/15/11/2004)
Turkish Diplomats' Initiatives (Initiatives Diplomatiques Turques/Le Monde/11/11/2004)
A Violent Manifest By a Group Of Extreme Right In Lyon (A Lyon, violente manifestation d'un groupe d'extr+¬me droite/Le Monde/15/11/2004)
Michel Rocard : "Do Not Revive The Dream Carolinge!" (Michel Rocard : T½Ne ressuscitons pas le r+¬ve carolingien !T¬/Le Figaro/16/11/2004)