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» 12/16/2004
Turkey – EUROPEAN UNION
Brussels to decide Turkish bid to join EU
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan says Europe should prove it is not a Christian club. France is in favour of Turkey's entry because it is in its interest but demands Turkey acknowledge Armenian genocide. European bishops state that the EU is forgetting Turkish violations of religious freedom.

Brussels (AsiaNews) – EU heads of government will decide tomorrow whether to open talks with Turkey over its accession to the Union. Meantime, the European parliament adopted a non binding resolution in favour of negotiations by a margin of 407 to 262 with 29 abstentions. But Ankara's demand is controversial and has provoked a flurry of statements by political leaders.

Leaving this morning on his way to Brussels, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Europe "has an obligation to prove that it is not a Christian club" and accept the Turkish bid.

Turkey's population is 99 per cent Muslim. In the last two years, the Turkish government has adopted several laws to conform to European standards but its first bid to join what eventually became the European Union dates back to 1963.

International observers believe though that, despite changes such as the abolition of the death penalty and language guarantees for minorities, Turkey is still a long way from fulfilling the civil rights obligations demanded by the EU.

Human Rights Watch points out for instance that Turkey must overcome two major obstacles, namely torture and ill-treatment in police custody and the safe return of more than 350,000 internally displaced Kurds forced from their homes in the 1990s.

Religious freedom is also another unresolved problem. Non Muslim religious groups still lack official legal recognition.

Recently, Mgr Hippolyte Simon, Vice President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Community (COMECE), speaking on behalf of Europe's bishops, said they were surprised that the EU would open negotiations without linking them to the full respect of religious rights as the European Commission had stated in its report.

Europe's bishops said they were in favour of Turkey's membership because the rights of religious minorities could thus be recognised and membership in the EU could prevent the country from coming under the influence of Islamic fundamentalism.

In a television interview broadcast yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac said that he was in favour of Turkey's entry into the EU "because it is in the interest of Europe, especially France". Mr Chirac said he supported Turkey's demand as long as Ankara "met all the conditions placed on every candidate for membership". In Turkey's case, this also includes recognising the Armenian genocide of 1915 when 1.5 million Christian Armenians were killed.

For some historians, the Armenian genocide inspired the Nazis to carry out their own policy of mass murder against the Jews.

Yesterday, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said: "In the course of the accession negotiations, France will ask for recognition of [this] tragedy". However, a Turkish government spokesman responded saying that "there was no such genocide, so there is no question of recognising a genocide that did not happen."

Turkey has always denied responsibility for the slaughter of Armenians claiming that it was the result of "spontaneous acts of violence". (LF)


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See also
12/17/2004 TURKEY - EUROPEAN UNION
EU's Cyprus demand dismays Turkey
10/29/2004 DOSSIER EUROPE - INDIA
Europe's deafening silence vis-à-vis Asia's persecuted Christians
10/05/2004 TURKEY - EUROPE
A ticket to Europe for Turkey? Yes, but …
by Marek Zuboir
10/06/2004 TURKEY - EUROPE
What changes in store for Turkey and the EU
10/05/2004 TURKEY - EUROPE
Turkey's forty year march towards Europe (An Overview)

Editor's choices
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ITALY - IRAQ
"Adopt a Christian from Mosul" to respond directly to Iraq's emergencyAsiaNews is launching a fundraiser to support Christians targeted by the Islamic State, thus responding to a request by the Patriarch of Baghdad and Pope Francis's urgent appeal "to guarantee all necessary assistance - especially the most urgently needed aid - to the great multitude of people who have been driven from their homes, whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others." More than 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes leaving everything behind and now have nothing to live on. To help them, five euros a day are enough. The funds raised will be sent to the Patriarchate of Baghdad, which will distribute them according to the needs of each family.
CHINA - VATICAN
Wenzhou bishop and priests slam government's campaign against crosses and churches in Zhejiang
by Eugenia ZhangFor Mgr Vincent Zhu Weifang, from the official Church, the campaign of destruction is increasing social instability. It is real persecution against the Christian faith. The bishop apologises for failing to intervene sooner. He was hoping that the campaign would end quickly. Catholics and Protestants suffer injuries as they attempt to defend their sacred buildings. For priests in Wenzhou, the campaign is unfair and touches buildings that have all the right papers. Such "stupid acts" by the government are undermining social harmony.

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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