TF1 - 8:00 JOURNAL


QUESTION: Mr. President, welcome.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Poivre d'Arvor.

QUESTION: Tomorrow, the final discussions are beginning in Brussels to see whether or not EU accession talks will begin with Turkey. Usually, when negotiations begin, the point is to succeed. Does this mean that in 10, 15 years from now, Turkey will be in the EU?

THE PRESIDENT: Indeed, tomorrow the European Council will take place, and we will be able to answer your question on the opening of negotiations for Turkey's possible entry into the EU.

This subject has given rise to an important debate in France, and it's a legitimate one. That's why I want to tell the French, through you, about my state of mind as I prepare to attend this Council.

The question is: Is it in the interest of Europe, and notably of France, for Turkey to join? My answer is yes, if.

Yes, if Turkey fulfills all the conditions imposed on all EU candidates.

When you think about what the founders of the EU had in mind, it was first of all a project for peace and stability. After centuries of war, of horrors, we want to leave our children a peaceful, stable region without wars.

The EU we wanted to create is also one in which democracy, human rights, the freedoms that to us are crucial, have deep roots.

And it also represents the resolve to have the best possible conditions for economic and social development.

Considering these three criteria, I believe it is in our interest to have Turkey, if it fulfills all the conditions. It's obvious that when it comes to security, stability and peace, having this large entity on our doorstep is absolutely positive. Rejecting it would certainly present a risk of instability, a risk of insecurity on our borders that must certainly be avoided.

It's also a way of ensuring that this entity on our doorstep will definitively consolidate the progress it has made and must continue to make in the areas of democracy, freedoms, human rights, sexual equality, religious freedom, the respect for minority rights, etc.

QUESTION: But in these circumstances, are there any other answers besides yes or no? Yes to full accession or no? Or is there a third hypothesis, a third way, as you and the Austrian chancellor seemed to hope?

THE PRESIDENT: I will tell you, but first I'd like to say that it's also a very important factor for economic development. It's a huge market, it's an economically powerful country. It's in our interest for Turkey to be with us and not against us.

I'd also like to add that Europe is a bit small in comparison with the world's major entities such as China, India and North America, and it would no doubt be strengthened in the future by Turkey's presence.

Of course, this naturally presumes that Turkey will go ahead with everything we'd like to see. In other words, that it will deeply change its values, its ways of life, its rules.

QUESTION: Is it doing so at the moment?

THE PRESIDENT: It has certainly made a considerable effort. This is true. It is far from completing that effort, and "negotiations," you must understand, is not synonymous with "accession." It means that Turkey must still make a considerable effort over 10, 15, 20 years-I don't know how long, but certainly no less than 10 or 15 years-to assume what we call the acquis communautaire, that is, all of our rules, values and ways of life, both with regard to human rights and a market economy. All the values and rules that are ours.

And to do so, it must make a considerable effort. There are 30 chapters expounding on what must be done. There are 88,000 pages of legislation that it must adopt. It's a considerable effort.

So when you say: Can we find another solution? Solutions can always be found, that's the job of diplomats. But I don't think we can, because askingà

QUESTION: A privileged partnership, for example, which is what the Austrian chancellor would like to see.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Poivre d'Arvor, asking a country like Turkey, a great country rich in history, to make such a considerable effort to reach an uncertain or partial result is obviously not reasonable. And we would be assuming a very weighty responsibility as far as history is concerned if, after being told by the people of a nation, "We will adopt all your values, all your rules, all your objectives," we responded, "Well, no. In the end, we're going to be negative."

QUESTION: Even if we said, "You'd still be a privileged partner"?

THE PRESIDENT: They would never agree to that. They are a proud people and they are aware of making a gigantic effort to move closer to us. In the event that they make these efforts to meet Europe on every point, we couldn't just say to them: "Well, no. You can't be a full-fledged member." It's a weighty responsibility we'd be assuming as far as history is concerned.

QUESTION: How do you explain the hostility of about two-thirds of the French population, larger than in any other European country? Is it perhaps because of France's particularly strong Armenian community?

THE PRESIDENT: You will have observed that the great majority of our partners are in favor of opening talks and want them to succeedà

QUESTION: And the French themselves?

THE PRESIDENT: àeven if it takes a long time. That's a fact.

QUESTION: The French are for opening talks, but apparently against accession.

THE PRESIDENT: You will also have noted, Mr. Poivre d'Arvor, that since 1963, when we drew up the Association Treaty and declared that Turkey had a vocation to enter Europe, not a single head of state, not a single French prime minister has questioned Turkey's European vocation. Not a single one. Now I grant you there's a debate, we have to embrace that. I would like to participate in this debate and tell the French how things stand. But I also don't want to inflame passions.

QUESTION: Let's get back to the Armenians. Was there a tragedy or a genocide in 1915? Your foreign minister used both expressions.

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Poivre d'Arvor, we in France respect the rule of law. A law passed nearly unanimously in both the Senate and in the National Assembly that spoke of genocide. Consequently, it's the law.

QUESTION: Should Turkey's recognition of the genocide be a condition?

THE PRESIDENT: The main thing is that our history is marked by efforts of reconciliation and peace. I said earlier that Europe has always from the very beginning represented an effort to achieve reconciliation, peace, respect for the other and openness toward others, and this has translated everywhere into a significant effort of remembrance. Naturally, Turkey must make this effort and I'm sure it will do so. For us that's very important, because beyond talk, beyond words, it's important to recall that France opened its doors in 1915, it welcomed a very large number of Armenians.

France's Armenian community is fully integrated. They are French like you and me, naturally, but like everyone, they also have a memory, a sensibility that must be respected. And their number, the tragedy experienced by their families that lives on in their memories, must be respected. And all this presumes an effort on the part of Turkey to remember what happened, that's clear. I have no doubt it will do so.

QUESTION: Another argument made by detractors of Turkey's membership in the EU is its geographical location. It's near Syria, Iran, Iraq. Does Turkey seem European to you?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, Turkey's entire history since the Roman Empire has been characterized by its attempt to choose between Asia and Europe. Sometimes it has leaned toward Asia, sometimes toward Europe. So the question today is not whether it's Asia or Europe. The question is what is in Europe's interest. That's what matters to us.

Is it in our interest for Turkey, in future generations, to lean toward Europe or toward Asia? I would say that it's in our interest for it to lean toward Europe, toward our values or concept of human rights, peace and democracy, and not toward Asia where it would be liable to take another path that would probably generate instability or insecurity for Europe.

QUESTION: But is it culturally European? We're talking about a population in which 95 percent adhere to the values of Islam and 72 percent are strongly practicing, while in Western Europe the number of practicing Catholics and Protestants is falling. Won't there be an imbalance?

THE PRESIDENT: Let's get a way from a mindset that necessarily leads to a lack of respect for others, to a war of religions, a clash of civilizations, culture wars with all that implies, and whose consequences, alas, are appearing in today's world in their most odious form-that of terrorism. Let's embrace a more human concept; let's have respect for others. Turkey is a secular country. Secularism was decreed in Turkey in 1923. It's a secular country that respects other religions, just as we respect other religions. So let's leave it at that, please. Let's not provoke clashes of this nature. We have everything to lose, beginning with our dignity.

QUESTION: There are undeniable statistical data: Turkey has 70 million inhabitants, France has just 60 million, Great Britain and Italy have a bit more, Germany has 80 million. It therefore may be easier for the Turks to block votes than it will be for the French. That may be one of the reasons that justifiably concerns part of the French population. Are you yourself concerned?

THE PRESIDENT: I am not concerned because I don't conceive of European expansion in terms of confrontations but in terms of seeking overall visions, common interests. That's exactly what we're doing, that's the whole spirit of the community. Naturally, on questions of voting and so on, the Constitution-which I hope the French will adopt-will considerably improve France's position in comparison with what would happen if the Constitution weren't adopted or if it hadn't been elaborated. The modalities for Turkey's integration-which should take place in 10 or 15 years-should be taken into consideration, and once again, there will be an accession treaty. Because I'd like to remind you of something in the debate you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, Mr. Poivre d'Arvor-let's not forget that we probably will open talksà

QUESTION: Would that happen right after Brussels?

THE PRESIDENT: In the course of 2005.

QUESTION: Toward 2005?

THE PRESIDENT: The date will be set by the European Council. It's not a major problem but the necessary preparations take a little time. So let's say 2005. But let's not forget two things, independent of the fact that the process will take a very long time, 10 or 15 years. First, that the negotiations are state-to-state. That means that throughout the entire period, from the opening of negotiations to their conclusion, each State, each nation, each of the 25 EU members can decide that it's not working out and can block the entire negotiating process. There must be unanimity. So each nation retains its entire freedom-I'm saying this to the French because I'm not sure it has been explained to them. Each nation, and notably France, retains the right to stop everything, from the beginning of the talks to their end; that is for the 10, 15, 20 years it takes.

Second, as you know, there will be a constitutional reform in a few weeks in order to recognize the new Constitutional Treaty, which we will submit to a referendum. And in this constitutional reform, with the exception of those countries already engaged in accession talks, all new memberships will have to be sanctioned by an accession treaty, adopted not by Parliament but by a referendum. That means that all French citizens will retain the right to express themselves, and the French people themselves-like those of other countries, incidentally-will have the last word.

I think we must take all this into account and say: Let's remain open-minded, let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

QUESTION: So to separate these two problems, Turkish membership and the referendum you yourself announced on July 14, wouldn't it be preferable to move up the referendum date just a little? You were talking about the second half of the year. Wouldn't it be better to hold it in May or June, since it's technically possible?

THE PRESIDENT: First we have to have the constitutional reform.

QUESTION: Will Parliament enact it in the beginning of the year?

THE PRESIDENT: Let's not prejudge what Parliament will do. I hope it will. But let's not prejudge. As soon as the process is sufficiently under way, I will tell the French the date I believe best for holding the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty.

QUESTION: Because you surely will have noted that two-thirds of the French today support this ratification, but 12 years ago, the numbers were pretty much the same for the Maastricht Treaty and yet the final result was extremely close. Doesn't that make you feel like moving up the date a little bit?

THE PRESIDENT: History doesn't repeat itself and we don't let polls determine our political responsibilities, regardless of their interest or importance. What I would like to say, on the other hand, is that this referendum will be very important. Very important for Europe and for France within Europe. France has always been an engine of European construction, the objective of which is the entrenchment of peace, democracy and human rights. And I hope it will continue to assume its responsibility as an engine. For that, it must say yes to the referendum on the Constitutional Treaty. I hope it will. What I also hope is that for once people truly realize that this is an important response to an important question. It shouldn't be treated in a political context with concerns that have nothing to do with it.

QUESTION: It's not a question of domestic policy?

THE PRESIDENT: No. This referendum must not be diverted from its vocation by considerations that have nothing to do with it; that's how important it is.

QUESTION: That's what the Socialists, for example, asked you after the adoption of their yes vote. It warmed your heart, didn't it, that "yes"?

THE PRESIDENT: The Socialists were right to emphasize that the referendum shouldn't be diverted from its objective. It's an important enough issue that everyone must vote according to their conscience and not according to considerations that have nothing to do with the question asked.

QUESTION: One last question, Mr. President. You announced that the French would be consulted on Turkey via a referendum. That may be in 2014; you may no longer even be here, unless you tell me the opposite today. Does your commitment hold for your successor?

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Poivre d'Arvor, I've already told you. In a few weeks, the amended Constitution presented by the Government to permit the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty will provide that approval of the Accession Treaty for new candidates for EU membership-and foremost among them Turkey-will be subject to a referendum and not to a Parliamentary vote. In other words, no matter what happens, the French will retain the last word. No matter what happens.

QUESTION: Thank you

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