Questions d’une étudiante de l’Université de Cambridge sur le thème “French concerns about European Enlargement” (décembre 2005)
1. What is your perception of the French political elite’s (French MEPs, President, PM) attitude to the current eastern enlargement and to Turkey in particular?
AL – There is a huge difference between the enlargement related to Eastern Europe and the Turkish case.
About Eastern Europe – and, to morrow, the Balkans – there are fears over job losses due to cheaper costs, and especially lower wages. But the examples of Spain and Portugal help reassuring the public opinion.
About Turkey, it is quite another matter. There is a deep sentiment against Turkish membership for two different reasons. Firstly, with all our difficulties in integrating even French citizens Moslems the prospect of welcoming 70 M more of them in the E.U. arouses anxiety and even anger. Secondly, if Turkey, whose 90% of the territory lies in Asia Minor, is deemed ‘European’ enough to join the European Union, that means that it will become politically impossible to object to any further application – from the Caucasus, Ukraine, the Middle East and North African countries, which would mean that the European Union would not have borders. And this clashes with what has been the French vision of Europe since the very beginning.
This sentiment is shared by a majority of the elite and of the population.
2. Is French public opinion in your view, different to the elite’s opinion concerning enlargement?
AL – No. Apart from the very few specialists in the Quai d’Orsay and the Elysées Palace, who are more in favour of Turkey and further enlargement.
3. Do you agree that there is a gap between the elite and mass opinion in France? Is it increasing?
AL – There is a lot of gaps on many issues, but not on enlargement. President Chirac and the Quai d’Orsay are very isolated from the rest of the elite on the subject.
4. In your experience, have “French” attitudes, elite or mass, to enlargement changed over time at all?
AL – Yes. The French consider themselves as the first founding people of ‘Europe’. Therefore, they have always frowned upon all the successive applications: it was the case towards the British application, as well as Spain, the Scandinavians, and the Eastern countries. But with time, they have always been reassured. It is bound to be different with Turkey, whose application calls into question the identity of Europe.
5. Why do you think French attitudes are what they are? On what factor would you put the emphasis? (Economics, power issues, cultural fears)
6. There is much in the media at the moment about the arguable failure of French integration methods given the recent rioting, do you think this will alter French views of European enlargement in the future? (Given eventual free movement of people from Eastern, Turkish countries)
AL – It will not facilitate a shift in the popular perception !
7. What do you see the future of enlargement to be? Croatia, Turkey, Cyprus, Ukraine, Balkans?
AL – We must take into account the significant consequences of the reform brought to the French Constitution earlier this year: after Bulgaria, Rumania and Croatia, any further Accession Treaty will require to be put to the French people through referendum. That means that ratifying such a treaty with Turkey becomes impossible for the foreseeable future. And the French people will not agree on letting in countries, even European, who have not yet sorted out their national problem (Bosnia, Serbia…), or do not strictly comply with basic democratic criteria (Ukraine, Belarus…)
8. Do you see Turkey succeeding or do you see vetoes ahead? A French veto perhaps?
AL – cf. above. Turkey simply will not join.
9. What would you say French main concerns are? (Economics – CAP, Fears of losing power within the European Union – their position, Security, Integration-rioting-Cultural worries)
AL – cf. above. CAP is not a major issue any longer.
10. Do you see the French position as valid, justified, necessary?
AL – I do not see any change in the next few years.
11. Are there any sources on France and European Enlargement you suggest I look at?
AL – The official French position, different from mine, is displayed on the website of the French government.