Sarkozy snubs Sweden: French press

Sarkozy snubs Sweden: French press
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled an official visit to Sweden in reaction to comments made by Sweden's foreign minister advocating Turkish EU membership, according to French media reports.

Sarkozy had planned to meet Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt next Tuesday but pulled out of the engagement with just a few day’s notice.

Official sources in France and Sweden claim the French president was forced to pull out because of an over-booked diary. But an unnamed French government minister claimed that Sarkozy’s volte face had come about in response to an interview with Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt published in Le Figaro on Monday.

“Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled his visit because of the interview with Carl Bildt,” the minster told French daily Le Monde.

But according to Roberta Alenius, a spokeswoman for Fredrik Reinfeldt, the postponement was due to “a calendar issue”.

“Turkey has nothing to do with this,” Alenius told AFP, adding that the differences between Stockholm and Paris on Ankara’s EU membership were “already known.”

French press reports citing a dispute between the two countries over Turkey’s European Union membership application were “speculation,” she added.

France had announced the postponement on Wednesday but had given no new date for the meeting.

Sweden takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1st, and is in favour of Turkish membership in the bloc while France is opposed to it.

Le Monde noted that Sarkozy has made his opposition to Turkey’s EU membership an issue in the campaign for the European parliament elections on June 7th.

Another French paper, Liberation, said Sarkozy decided to postpone his trip “to underline his deep disagreement over the pro-Turk plea” by Bildt.

Bildt had told Le Figaro on Monday: “We have to avoid halting EU enlargement,” adding that he was referring to Turkey.

Alenius said talks between Sarkozy and Reinfeldt would focus on Sweden’s priorities during the presidency, including the economic crisis and coordinating positions on the climate issue ahead of a UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December.

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