France's finance minister echoed the German opposition's call to offer Turkey a privileged partnership and expressed concerns about the effects of Turkey's 70 million people on the EU.
France should hold a referendum on whether to allow Turkey into the EU, according to French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. "A decision as important as the membership of Turkey in Europe could only be taken after there had been a referendum in France," Sarkozy, widely seen as a challenger to Jacques Chirac for the next French President, told French radio Sunday night. "Turkey's accession, even in the best case scenario, will not happen for another 15 years if everything goes well." Turkey's entry raises concerns "because Turkey alone represents the membership of the 10 countries (mainly) from eastern Europe," he said, referring to Turkey's population compared to the new member states. Sarkozy's comments followed a similar skeptical statement from French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who asked if Europe really wanted "the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism," the Financial Times reported. Sarkozy echoed calls made recently by the leader of the opposition center-right parties in Germany, that Turkey should be given special partner status. (EUobserver.com)