15 October 2004
The French Parliament will today debate Muslim-majority Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union, a bid that has so far little real support from either the political mainstream or the French public.
Lawmakers from President Jacques Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and from other parties have been pushing for a debate on Turkey's EU aspirations before December 17. That is when EU leaders are to finalise an initial approval of membership talks.
Chirac's support of membership talks for Turkey places him at odds with many lawmakers and French opinion.
Three-quarters of 893 people interviewed for a poll released on Monday said they opposed Turkey joining the bloc which has 25 member nations.
Chirac said recently that France would decide in a referendum whether it wanted Turkey to join the EU, which currently has 25 members. That could jeopardise Turkey's aspirations, since EU member states must unanimously approve any nation's application for membership.
Last week, the EU's 30-member executive commission recommended the start of entry talks. It is now up to the EU's 25 leaders to approve the recommendation at the December 17-18 summit in Brussels. That would pave the way for the start of entry talks with the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 71 million people as early as next year.
Turkey has carried out some needed reforms to qualify for EU membership, such as abolishing the death penalty and cutting back the power of the military in politics.