The issue of Turkey’s admission into the EU has again reared its contentious head, this time over comments made by Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, who spoke out in support of Turkish membership. This seemingly innocuous statement apparently provoked France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy to cancel an official visit to Sweden.
Giving just a few days’ notice, Sarkozy pulled out of a planned meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, according to The Local. The official excuse given by the French government was that Sarkozy had overbooked his schedule. However, an unnamed French minister told the French daily Le Monde that the snub was in response to an interview Bildt gave with Le Figaro.
Both sides deflected the heart of the issue, saying it was just a scheduling problem. Roberta Alenius, a spokeswoman for Fredrik Reinfeldt, told the AFP, “Turkey has nothing to do with this.” But she was quick to point out that the difference in opinion between France and Sweden concerning Turkish entry into the EU was “already known.”
Sweden will assume the rotating presidency of the EU on 1 July. Sweden is officially in favour of Turkish membership in the EU, while France is decidedly against it. Sarkozy even made his opposition to Turkey a key issue in campaigning for the European parliamentary elections scheduled for 7 June.
But Alenius downplayed the postponement of the meeting, saying the talks between Sarkozy and Reinfeldt were focused only on Sweden’s priorities during its term as EU president, the economic recession, and each country’s position on climate change in preparation for the December climate summit in Copenhagen.