Religion and the European Union
The European Union, or E.U., has existed in its modern form since it was formed by the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. Since then, fifteen countries have joined the E.U., increasing the number of member countries to 27. Countries must meet strict standards when applying for membership to the E.U., as there are many factors which determine whether their request for membership is approved or denied. Religion is not specified to be one of these factors, but even so it appears to be a detrimental factor in the acceptance of Turkey into the E.U. Turkey is 99.8 percent Muslim and has applied for admission into the E.U. (The World Factbook).
Religion plays a large role in the acceptance and denial of countries applying for E.U. membership. Turkey has been the applicant with the greatest amount of difference between its predominant religion and that of most E.U. countries. Turkey’s government claims to be secular, but works to spread the Alevi form of the Muslim faith in its country. Turkey’s legislature also manages Islam in its country. Turkey is far more supportive of a particular church than any country in the E.U. This creates a glaring schism between Turkey and the rest of the EU, providing even more reason not to accept Turkey as a member state. The endorsement of the Alevi form of Islam in turn causes those of other faiths to be discriminated against. Turkish school children must attend schools where they have taught Islam and laws restricting forms of Islam other than Alevi are in effect in some locations in Turkey (The Economist 14). The roadblocks that these factors place in the way of Turkey’s acceptance into the E.U. are clear. The discrimination against minorities could keep Turkey from being considered to have a government unbiased enough to join the E.U. The impartiality of the government also raises questions as to the extent of the fairness with which Turkey treats its citizens. How secular must Turkey be in order to be considered to be impartial in its treatment of those of minority religions, such as other forms of Islam? This question is important, as it in and of itself is enough to determine whether or not Turkey is granted membership in the E.U.
According to Elfriede Harth, speaking on the subject of the constitution of the E.U., “[t]o mention God in the constitution would be to discard democracy” (Harth 46). This idea, that the E.U. should be governed completely secularly, brings forth the point that the adoption of Turkey into the E.U. might be a laxation of the standard secularity already in place in the E.U. The E.U. has stated in their constitution that countries are to remain non-prejudiced towards every religion in their country. Although being secular is a requirement for acceptance into the E.U., most member countries are at least “in dialogue” with religions. (Coughlan 20)....