France to Scrap Referendum Commitment on Turkey?

I may be sceptical about the timetable for EU enlargement of the European Union following Ireland’s referendum, but there has been one welcome development as France takes over the presidency: the French Senate has voted by 297 votes to seven to scrap the obligation to hold a national referendum over Turkish membership.

The issue is scheduled for final decision on July 7, when the National Assembly will be asked to revoke a recent bid to retain the clause.

Of course Turkey was not named in the legislation, which was introduced into the constitution by President Chirac in 2005. It applied to any candidate country representing more than 5 per cent of the EU population, but nobody doubted its target. It has seriously damaged relations between France and Turkey and cast a shadow over France’s chairmanship of the enlargement negotiations for the next six months.

Mr Sarkozy no doubt remains sceptical about Turkish membership, but this move would restore an element of good faith while talks continue. Chirac’s 2005 gesture did seem a somewhat cynical response in the face of opinion polls of the time.