Reflections on Turkey and the European Union
The Plenary Meeting of the Commission of Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) was held in Brussels from 18-19 November 2004. The Bishops discussed the opening of accession negotiations with Turkey and offer the following reflections:
To decide whether Turkey can start negotiations with a view to acceding to the EU in the future, is a political and not a religious question. This political question deserves a wide discussion in European civil society.
For the Catholic Church, it is important that Turkey and the EU develop their relations in a constructive and amicable way. Religion does not constitute an obstacle for a country such as Turkey, with a majority Muslim population, from becoming a member of the EU. In any case, it is important that Turkey respects fundamental rights, for example the equality of status for women, freedom of speech and association, and religious freedom.
Therefore, it must be asked whether it is appropriate to open negotiations with Turkey, whilst fundamental rights including religious freedom are not fully respected in that state. The European Commission has stated this fact in its Report of the 6 October 2004, yet it did not conclude that the opening of negotiations should be linked with the full respect of these rights.
The Bishops of COMECE propose that before negotiations for the transposition of the body of European legislation begin with Turkey, the Turkish government is required to correct shortcomings with regard to religious freedom and the legal status of minorities according to the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne 1923. They call upon the European Council to include this provision in the conclusions of its meeting on 16 – 17 December in Brussels.