Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

Search

 

Cablegate: France's May 29 Referendum On Eu Constitution:

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PARIS 003103

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD, INR/EUC AND
EB
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: FRANCE'S MAY 29 REFERENDUM ON EU CONSTITUTION:
"THE QUESTION OF TURKEY"

REF: A. (A) PARIS 2942
B. (B) PARIS 2663

SUMMARY
-------
1. (SBU) "The question of Turkey" as the French refer to it,
looms large in the background of voter concerns as France's
electorate prepares for the May 29 national referendum on a
proposed constitution for the European Union. Opponents of
the constitutional treaty suggest that it will make Turkey's
membership in the EU more likely, leading to a new influx of
Muslim immigrants seeking work. France's already large
Muslim minority, mostly of North African origin, is not well
integrated into French society. Among those susceptible to
nativist and xenophobic fears, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim
prejudice runs high, and transfers easily to opposing Europe,
the constitution and enlargement to include Turkey. In
addition, President Chirac's championing of opening accession
talks with Turkey tempts some who oppose Turkey's membership
in the EU to "vote against Chirac" in the referendum. For
many, the prospect of an EU that includes Turkey also
confirms their fear that European enlargement is "a runaway
train." With Turkey in the club, the "European idea" would
logically also be open to Russia and many countries around
the Mediterranean, ensuring that the EU remains a vast
free-trade zone and does not become a closer, political
union. END SUMMARY.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

LOOMING IN THE BACKGROUND
-------------------------
2. (SBU) In the early weeks of the referendum campaign
(which began on March 4 when President Chirac announced the
May 29 date) the "question of Turkey" was at the forefront of
French voters' concerns. Through mid-April most polls showed
that opposition to Turkey's membership in the EU was the
leading motivator of those who said that they planned to vote
'no' on May 29. Since then, as the debate over the proposed
constitution has centered, nearly exclusively, on two issues
-- the constitution's compatibility with the French social
model (reftel A) and the weakening of France should French
voters reject the proposed charter -- fears linked to Turkey
have somewhat receded into the background for most voters.
So much so that President Chirac, in a fifty-minute
prime-time television appearance on May 3, did not see fit to
bring up Turkey at all. Notwithstanding the current eclipse
of Turkey as a watershed issue in the referendum debate,
pollsters are also finding that it continues to loom very
large in the background of voter concerns as a "crystallizer"
or "refractor" of differences among the French with regard to
two key sets of issues: one social, highlighting differences
over the role of immigration, multiculturalism and religion
in the future evolution of French society and the other
European, highlighting differences among the French over what
the EU should become.

REFRACTING DIFFERENCES OVER SOCIAL ISSUES
-----------------------------------------
3. (SBU) For many in France, and not only among those
susceptible to the extremist right's virulent xenophobia and
nativism, Turkey's prospective membership in the EU conjures
up fears of unlimited Muslim immigration. French society has
largely failed to integrate the estimated five million
Muslims already in France. The specter of another wave of
Muslim immigrants -- of their "taking away jobs and
undercutting wages," of exacerbated urban tensions, and of
conflict stemming from the religious fundamentalism of a few
of these immigrants and the French Republic's rigid
commitment to secularism -- has been demagogically exploited
by opponents of the proposed constitution, in particular on
the far-right. However, many who support the proposed
constitution (including France's most popular politician,
Nicolas Sarkozy, president of Union for a Popular Movement
(UMP) party) are also against Turkey's accession to the EU.
In part, this opposition to Turkey stems from recognition of
the difficulties French society is having adjusting to
multiculturalism and other factors for social change stemming
from globalization. For Sarkozy and other "opponents of
Turkey," who are not bigots, the effects in France of
including more than 70 million Turks in the EU is a bridge
too far for French society's capacity to adapt.

AND OVER DIFFERENT VISIONS FOR EUROPE
-------------------------------------
4. (SBU) The focus of the referendum debate on whether or
not the proposed constitution supports or undermines the
French social model has masked deep differences in France
over the right direction for the European construction --
what the proposed constitution should lead to. Different
positions on "the question of Turkey," reflect different
visions for Europe. Many who would have objected to
enlargement to 25, but had no opportunity to express their
views due to the EU's "democracy deficit," plan to vote 'no'
to object both to enlargement to 25 and to prospective
enlargement to include Turkey. A Europe that includes Turkey
may also be open to Russia and to many countries around the
Mediterranean. Such an "ever-expanding Europe without a
border" is also a pre-imminently "liberal" economic
association, too diverse and unwieldy to muster much
political clout. Pollsters believe that a significant
portion of French supporters of the proposed constitution
oppose Turkey's inclusion in the EU for precisely this reason
-- that including Turkey insures that the EU remains no more
than a vast free-trade zone, and does not become a stronger
political union. Defending himself against the charge that
he is a lukewarm Europeanist, President Chirac in his
television appearance May 3 called for a "Europe that
conjoins single market and social harmonization, that does
not subsume the identity of Europe's peoples and nations and
in which European authorities do what only they can do better
than national ones." President Chirac, the leading proponent
in France of having the EU open accession talks with Turkey,
believes that inclusion of Turkey is compatible with this
vision of a union of nations that share democratic political
values and a framework for concerted action. This is one of
the defining differences between Chirac and his principal
rival for leadership of the center-right, Sarkozy. Those who
stress that civilizational affinities unite Europeans and, in
some instances, also support a federated Europe (for example,
Francois Bayrou head of the centrist Union for French
Democracy (UDF) party), are adamantly hostile to any
possibility of including Turkey in Europe.

COMMENT
-------
5. (SBU) With only three weeks left to go before the May 29
referendum, is it unlikely that the "question of Turkey,"
despite the demagoguery of right-wing vote-'no' advocates,
will take center stage in the debate over the proposed
constitution. However, because differing positions on
Turkey's place in the EU reflect differences over future
challenges to French society and differences over the future
evolution of the EU, Turkey is likely to be a high-profile
issue after the referendum -- as the October 3 date for the
start of accession negotiations approaches and leads to the
long season of jockeying for favor with the electorate in the
run-up to the 2007 presidential campaign. END COMMENT.
ROSENBLATT

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
 
 
 
World Headlines

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.