Opening a parliamentary debate that has been shrouded in controversy, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on Thursday that neither Turkey nor Europe is ready for Turkey's accession.
"Neither Europe nor Turkey" are "today ready for Turkey joining," said French Prime Minister Raffarin on Thursday. "Let’s not lie to the Turkish people [but] say clearly that membership of the EU is not going to be possible today, tomorrow or in the next years," he added. "Turkey remains very far from Europe today, politically, economically and socially." However, he warned against a premature 'no' to Turkish accession emphasizing that the French people would have the "last word" on the issue. French President Jacques Chirac has promised a referendum on any future enlargement of the EU. The debate comes after mounting political pressure to allow MPs to vote on the issue of Turkey joining the EU. Raffarin has not permitted a vote due to "political and legal reasons." And most parties are split on the issue. Many MPs in the ruling centre-right UMP party have grave misgivings about allowing Turkey into the union but Chirac (also UMP) is in favor. Similarly, the opposition Socialists are divided, with deputy leader Laurent Fabius yesterday arguing for a "privileged partnership" with Ankara. But if politicians are divided on the subject, the view of the French people seems clear enough. A recent poll showed that three quarters of them would vote against Turkey entering the EU if a vote were held now. The French debate comes a week after Brussels declared Turkey ready to start accession negotiations. EU leaders will decide whether they agree on December 17.