Turkey & the EU

How Inclusive Can Europe Afford to Be?

Though continuity with his predecessor has been the norm so far, Pope Benedict XVI has already diverged from several positions held by John Paul II. One concerns the proposed accession of Turkey to the European Union, a question the EU will take up on October 3.

While John Paul II adopted a neutral stance with regard to Turkey’s desire to join the EU, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a much-publicized speech in August 2004, asserted that granting the country membership “would be a mistake.” “Europe is a cultural and not a geographical continent,” he told the French newspaper Le Figaro; “Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe.” Ratzinger’s advice to Turkey was to seek its future in an association of Muslim nations—a statement in line with others he had made in the past, emphasizing the decisive role of Christianity in shaping the identity of Europe. Not surprisingly, Turkish dailies greeted Ratzinger’s election as pope with dismay.

Although Pope Benedict has subsequently reached out to Muslims, most notably during World Youth Day in Cologne last month, he has not retracted his views about Turkey’s admission to the EU. The Christian cultural-heritage argument against Turkey’s candidacy is ironic, given the region’s importance to the early history of Christianity. St. Paul traveled twice through “Anatolia,” founding several...

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About the Author

Timothy P. Schilling studied English at Princeton and theology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and earned a doctorate in practical theology at the Katholieke Theologische Universiteit te Utrecht. Since 2003 he has served on the staff of the Center for Parish Spirituality, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.