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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
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".
CHINA - VATICAN
Beijing, seminarians desert graduation ceremony: We will not celebrate Mass with illegitimate bishops The rector of the seminary is the illegitimate bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin: Students refuse to concelebrate with him and reject Msgr. Fang Xingyao, who has participated in several illegal episcopal ordinations. The directors close the year without awarding diplomas and send students home: rumors of some courses being "suspended" in September. The precedent of 2000, when 130 young students chose fidelity to the Pope over compromise with the government.
HONG KONG-CHINA-VATICAN
Card Zen: Religious freedom and civil liberties are united, for China and Hong Kong
by Bernardo CervelleraA wide ranging conversation with the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong: the courage of Msgr. Ma Daqin, who sent a message to Pope Francis; underground Catholics are also prepared to be arrested; suspicions about Beijing’s sincerity towards possible dialogue with the Holy See. And in Hong Kong, the march for a referendum on democracy; support for "Occupy Central"; the fear of the government and arrests. Card. Zen reaffirms that religious freedom and civil liberties go hand in hand.

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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