Turkey sees France unblocking two EU chapters

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 18, 2012 8:43 AM

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Turkey is hopeful France will unblock talks over EU membership on at least two policy chapters in the coming months ahead of a visit by President Francois Hollande, Ankara's EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bagis said on Tuesday.

Turkey began talks in 2005 but has only completed one of the 35 policy "chapters" every candidate must conclude to join the EU. All but 13 of those chapters are blocked by France, Cyprus and the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.

While Hollande has stopped short of endorsing Turkey's EU candidacy, he has said it should be judged on political and economic criteria - a contrast to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy's position that Turkey did not form part of Europe.

"I believe Mr. Hollande is trying to schedule his next couple of months and his plans include coming to Turkey. We are hoping that before he arrives in Turkey he will tell us the good news on lifting the blockade on at least two of those chapters," Bagis told Reuters.

He said he expected those two chapters to be on financial policy and on regional policy.

Asked whether France had specifically told Turkey it would unblock those two chapters ahead of a visit by Hollande, Bagis said Paris had "indicated" it was "considering" opening them.

Accession talks have all but ground to a halt due to an intractable dispute over Cyprus, the divided island state which Turkey does not recognize, and opposition from core EU members France and Germany.

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Talks have also been blocked by the European Commission which says Turkey does not yet meet required standards on human rights, freedom of speech and religion.

Despite the slow progress and waning domestic support, Turkey has continued to push for full membership of the union and has said it wants to join before 2023, the centenary of its founding as a republic.

(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jonathon Burch)