France pledges more help in EU talks, says ball in Turkey's court
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner yesterday said that Turkey's European Union goal could move closer if necessary reforms are carried out, adding that the ball is in Turkey's court. Kouchner, on an official visit to Turkey, said Turkey needs to carry out a number of reforms for talks on three negotiation chapters to begin, pledging French support if the reforms are done. Speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu, Kouchner said the chapter on competition could be opened by year's-end and that Belgium, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, appears to be receptive to this. The two other chapters, he said, are social policies and employment, once further reforms are done. "The EU could be real for Turkey if necessary reforms are carried out," he added. Davutoglu told reporters that he had asked for France's "active support" so that negotiations on a number of policy areas may start. He added that he has requested French support to push ahead a visa exemption deal with the bloc. "We want the same visa procedures applied to Turkey as were applied to the Balkans. Nothing more, nothing less," Davutoglu said. Complaining of "political barriers" meant to block Turkey's EU membership, he cited the Cyprus problem as an example. Turkey and France also agreed to step up cooperation in fighting the terrorist PKK, with Kouchner calling the fight important. Saying that National Intelligence Organization (MIT) head Hakan Fidan's visit to Paris last week is a good sign that both countries are cooperating in this area, Kouchner said France will continue working decisively on the issue. "We support Turkey in this," he said. He also had talks with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his visit. Kouchner and Davutoglu also attended the opening of a new wing of Ankara's Charles de Gaulle High School, which both said will help improve bilateral ties. Turkey and France also signed a declaration under which the number of Turkish imams in France will be raised from 121 to 151, while also extending their residence permits. The Foreign Ministry said the declaration will help meet the needs of France's Turkish community and build understanding between the Turkish and French peoples.