Two days before the EU embraces 10 new members, French President Jacques Chirac said Thursday that enlargement will turn Europe into an economic powerhouse, but he warned that Turkey has not yet met the conditions to join.
Speaking at a rare news conference at the Elysee presidential palace, Chirac sought to reassure the French public about the EU’s expansion after opinion polls showed people are concerned about its effects on employment and social welfare — as well as on French national identity.
“I want to say to French men and women that this Europe, which is our common heritage and birthright, is now more than ever an opportunity for us and our future,” the president said in a brief speech before taking questions.
“With its 450 million inhabitants, the EU is asserting itself as an economic power of the first rank, in which growth and investment will create a new dynamic for employment. It is a process in which everyone will be a winner,” he said.
A CSA survey this week showed 62 percent of the French public in favour of enlargement, but more than half were worried about its implications. Some 49 percent of those consulted said they were “sceptical” or “opposed” to the European Union.
The president said he realised that the changing nature of the EU was giving rise to doubts among many people, but he went on: “I want to say to them with force how much the future of France and the future of the EU are intimately connected.
“Europe is not a substitute for nations. It brings them together to give them greater strength.”0