Germany, France back Turkish invite to membership talks
Germany and France offered a ringing endorsement for Turkey's eventual membership of the European Union at a bilateral summit, as French President Jacques Chirac brushed aside doubts about Paris's backing.
Ahead of a meeting later Tuesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told a news conference that they would vote for Ankara to be invited to EU membership talks at a summit in December in Brussels.
"We are both of the opinion that on December 17 it is about a decision that should give Turkey the opportunity to negotiate with the (European) Commission with the explicit aim of Turkey joining the European Union and with no other aim," Schroeder told reporters.
French President Jacques Chirac added that it was his "dearest wish" that Turkey's membership talks with the EU end in its joining the bloc.
"This decision (in December) is based on the recommendations of the European Commission, whose favorable conclusion we know and I agree with too," he said.
"However there will then be a long-term process of negotiations, which could last 15 years."
Schroeder has been perhaps the strongest supporter of Turkey's bid within the bloc, while Chirac has bowed to domestic pressure for a referendum on Ankara's accession and warned that Paris could veto membership talks at any time.
The 25 EU leaders are expected at the December summit to give Turkey their green light on starting accession talks but it is not yet clear when the negotiations could start.
Turkey has said it wants the talks to start in early 2005.
Chirac told reporters he believed the negotiations could begin "in 2005 or around 2005".
"The membership of Turkey would be in the interest of Turkey and in the interest of the stability and democracy of the world and our region," he said.
Erdogan warned before leaving for Berlin Tuesday that his poor, predominantly Muslim country would settle for nothing short of full membership in the EU, regardless of efforts within the bloc to slow the process.
"This summit... is very important with respect to our foreign policy objectives because Turkey's European Union accession process has ceased to be an ambiguous process for the EU and has taken an irreversible direction," Erdogan said in a speech before the parliamentary group of his Justice and Development Party.