Turkey's Entry Into EU Isn't a Religious Issue, Say Episcopates

BRUSSELS, Belgium, NOV. 24, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community says the issue of allowing Turkey to begin talks on EU accession is a political and not a religious question.

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«Religion does not constitute an obstacle for a country such as Turkey, with a majority Muslim population, from becoming a member of the EU,» COMECE said in a statement issued at the end of its Nov. 18-19 plenary assembly.

«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,» COMECE added.

«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,» it said.

Given the situation, 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 of 1923.»

In regard to the EU’s Constitutional Treaty, the bishops stressed the importance of informed public debate during the ratification process that will involve referendums in member states.

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