Today's Zaman, Turkey
May 31 2008


French lawmakers approve referendum clause against Turkey


French lawmakers have voted to pass an amendment to constitutional
reforms apparently aiming to block any eventual Turkish membership in
the European Union.

Under the amendment tabled by deputies from the center-right UMP
party, holding a referendum would be obligatory for approving the EU
accession of any country whose population exceeds 5 percent of the EU
population, which stands at about 500 million. With its population of
70 million, EU candidate Turkey will be affected by the referendum
clause.

The French National Assembly, the lower house of the French
Parliament, approved the amendment with a 48-21 vote late on
Thursday. The provision, if eventually approved by the Senate and a
majority of both houses, will make France the first country in the
world whose constitution contains clauses specifically targeting a
foreign country.

The Socialist opposition voted against the measure, which won backing
from most, but not all, UMP lawmakers. "This proposal dangerously
targets a certain country," said Socialist parliamentarian Manuel
Valls during the National Assembly session. Another Socialist
lawmaker, Rene Dosiere, called the provision "disgraceful and
shameful."

"If in a referendum tomorrow the French say, 'No,' to Turkey's [EU]
membership, while the 26 other countries say, 'Yes,' what will remain
of Europe?" his colleague Serge Blisko was quoted as asking by
Internet news portal EUobserver.com.

An opponent of the measure within the UMP, Bruno Le Maire, criticized
it for targeting Turkey. "Many eyes are fixed on us now -- those of
our compatriots, but also those of peoples from the world wondering
whether we will really introduce in our Constitution an arrangement
targeting implicitly a particular country," Le Maire said, according
to EUobserver. "[If the US put into its constitution an article]
targeting Mexico, Columbia or any other country, then France -- the
country of human rights -- would be shocked. I am now afraid that our
neighbors might be [shocked] by this new arrangement," he added,
before the vote took place.

After the debates on the constitutional reform proposal and its
amendments in the French Assembly, the text will be brought before the
French Senate and a final decision is to be taken by a three-fifths
majority of the two bodies gathered for a parliamentary meeting in
July. In order to reach the three-fifths majority, the UMP needs to
secure the backing of the Socialists as well.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the former leader of the UMP, is a
vocal opponent of Turkey's bid to join the EU, saying it does not
belong to Europe. The constitutional reform package originally
abolished a clause calling for a referendum on all future accessions
to the EU and left the decision on the matter to the president. But
UMP lawmakers, most of whom rely on votes from the French-Armenian
electorate, pressed for guarantees against Turkey's possible accession
into the EU and proposed the amendment in question. Besides Turkey,
the amendment would also affect EU hopeful Ukraine, home to
approximately 46 million.