VATICAN CITY, NOV. 1, 2004 ( The Holy See does not have an official position on Turkey's entrance in the European Union, and considers that the decision must be made according to EU rules.

In an interview with the Turin newspaper La Stampa, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, clarified that "in the case of adherence, Turkey must satisfy all the political criteria set forth at the Copenhagen Summit in December 2002."

These criteria include the complete guarantee of human rights as well as full individual and corporate religious freedom, "founded on the dignity of man."

In particular, the prelate analyzed the situation of religious freedom in the country, and stressed that "not only must it be guaranteed at the level of the Constitution, legislation and administration, but must also be effectively protected in the concrete aspects of the social fabric."

Those who are opposed to Turkey's entrance into the European Union generally think that such a decision might weaken the cultural unity of the Continent. Those who promote it believe that it would give the Muslim world an example of integration into the Western world.

Archbishop Lajolo said that these arguments show that "what is at stake is of transcendental relevance, and therefore it is very understandable that some European governments wish to be supported in their decision by a referendum."

"Anyway, the Holy See is not afraid of an enlargement of Europe: John Paul II has spoken on several occasions of a united Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals. It is critical that the New Europe have profound inner cohesion," the archbishop said.

Archbishop Lajolo added that "more attention should be paid to states that are already candidates, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia -- countries that have an old and great culture."

"And the list could continue with other states of the Balkans, such as Serbia and Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania, which Europe cannot do without and to which the Holy See also feels very close," he concluded.