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Last Updated: Friday, 1 October, 2004, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Chirac seeks vote on Turkey bid
Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac says the vote would not be for at least another 10 years
French President Jacques Chirac has backed calls for France to hold a referendum on whether Turkey should enter the European Union.

He said he had asked the government to consider a constitutional amendment calling for a vote whenever the EU wants to include a new member.

Mr Chirac said a vote was not likely to take place for more than a decade.

The European Commission is expected to recommend next week that the EU open entry talks with Turkey.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of people in France oppose Turkish entry to the EU, with many concerned that it is too large, too poor and not a Christian country.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says Mr Chirac has been worried that the French could turn next year's referendum on whether to approve the European Constitution into a vote on Turkey instead - and reject the constitution as a result.

Mr Chirac was speaking after talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Strasbourg.


He said he did not expect Turkey to be considered for EU membership for another 10 or 15 years.

"It will inevitably take a long time, and the problem for the French is to know whether they will then have their say in the matter or whether the decision will be imposed on them," he said.

"Let me immediately reassure you, the French will have their say."

Earlier this week, French Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, expected to be a presidential candidate in 2007, said Turkey should not be allowed to join the EU without a referendum in France.

He said his views were based on the size of Turkey's population, rather than the fact it was a Muslim country.

Last week, the French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, entered the debate with controversial remarks - saying that Europe should ask itself whether it wanted the river of Islam flowing into the secular river-bed of Europe.

Many French MPs argue that Turkey should instead be offered a special relationship with the EU, while stopping short of full membership.

A final decision on opening talks is due to be taken at an EU summit in December.

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