French President François Hollande said on Tuesday that France supports the opening of talks on new EU chapters, especially on the separation of powers and the rule of law for democratization in Turkey, comments that came amid the government's ongoing attempts to control the judiciary in response to a major corruption investigation, Today's Zaman reported.
"The negotiations [accession talks between Turkey and the EU] can be additional instruments for democratization, the rule of law, freedom and modernization [in Turkey]. That's why France wants new chapters to be opened, especially the chapters on the separation of powers and the rule of law," Hollande said, adding, "Without thinking about what will happen in the end."
Hollande's watchful support for Turkey on the opening of new chapters on law, freedom and human rights follows a corruption scandal that hit Turkey's agenda on Dec. 17 with a wave of high-profile detentions, including those of three Cabinet minister's sons. The EU has warned Ankara several times that it should uphold the principles of the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary after the government responded to the corruption probe by reassigning scores of judges, prosecutors and police officials, including those involved in the investigation, as well as by restricting the body responsible for appointments, promotions and removals in the judiciary.
President Abdullah Gül also said on Tuesday that Turkey is very aware that it won't become a full member automatically after fulfilling the requirements of the accession chapters and that first it wants to finalize its accession process successfully. He added that for Turkey to become a member of the EU requires a referendum in France as well as in Turkey; however, that is not the issue of today.
After noting that he agreed with Holland's remarks on the focus of the new chapters, Gül called on Hollande to lift the block on four of the 35 chapters, but the French President is so far maintaining his silence on that particular issue.
"Everyone was thinking that - and it was actually real, but you changed this reality after becoming president - France imposed a political block on many chapters, on five of the chapters. You removed one of the blocks on a chapter [Chapter 22], but say that you also lifted others. Turkey may complete them or not. This is another story, as it [Turkey completing all the chapters] will happen when Turkey fulfills its duties, not you," Gül said and called on France to lift the other blocks in order for Turkey to be able to do its part for accession.
When speaking at the francophone Galatasaray University on the second day of his visit to Turkey, Hollande also noted that his long-awaited visit to Turkey was the first presidential visit to Turkey from France in 22 years, saying, "Twenty-two years may seem long; however, when we consider that relations date back to the 16th century, it is not that much. I came to here to save time, as we have a lot to do together."
Francois Hollande is the first French President to visit Turkey since former President François Mitterrand's visit to Turkey in 1992. Although former French President Nicholas Sarkozy came to Turkey on the sidelines of the G20 summit in 2011, it is not considered a presidential visit between the two countries as it was not bilateral.
Hollande also mentioned the events of 1915. He said two countries sometimes have disagreements on historical issues because they haven't talked each other in a frank manner for a long time.
"You know the stance of France and I won't say anything different than I say in France," said Hollande, who believes that there was an Armenian genocide committed by Turks and has promised in the past to pursue efforts to criminalize the denial of claims that Armenians were subjected to genocide at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire. He also stated that if the Turkish nation were to face up to its own history, it would make it a more admired and grander nation.
Ankara denies that the events of World War I amount to a genocide, saying there were killings on both sides when Armenians revolted against the Ottoman Empire in the hope of establishing an Armenian state in eastern Anatolia. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled last month that denial of the Armenian genocide claims cannot be criminalized because it is a matter of free speech.
Later in the day, the French president met with Rakel Dink, the widow of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was killed in 2007.
While he was at the university, Hollande also awarded the well-known singer Candan Erçetin, who sings in French as well as Turkish, with the title Knight of Arts and Literature and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal.