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Europe

Don't Slam Door on Turkish Accession, France Says

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier has warned against "shutting the door" on Ankara, signalling a softening of the country's hard-line stance against Turkey joining the EU.

Speaking on Europe 1 radio station, Barnier, who recently became France's chief diplomat, warned that rejecting Turkey could discourage it from its reform program. "If we reject it (Turkey), if we slam the door in its face as some would like to do quite quickly, there is a risk that it will turn to another model", said the former commissioner. This follows recent comments by the leader of Jacques Chirac's ruling centre-right UMP party who said that countries like Turkey "had no business in the EU." However, despite this more conciliatory tone, Barnier stressed that any possible accession was a distant prospect. "There is no question of Turkey's accession in the current circumstances or in the short-term", he said. "Accession negotiations have not begun. They have never begun. We will decide together whether they should begin. I cannot say how long they will last - probably a very long time." France's tough line on Turkey is not universally shared in the EU. Both the UK and Germany have spoken out in favour of Ankara beginning membership negotiations if it meets the political criteria for joining. Member states will decide at the end of the this year whether Turkey is ready for accession negotiations based on a report by the European Commission, which will be published in October. (EUobserver.com)

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