Opinion: As Long as EU Excludes Turkey, "Muslim Issue" Will Grow

May 28, 2004

Source: NCM


On May 28, 2004 NCM posted a commentary from the Pacific News Service on the place of Islam in European soceity. Paolo Pontoniere [U.S. correspondent for Focus, Italy's leading monthly magazine], with Franz Schurmann and Jalal Ghazi, argues, "Since Charlemagne unified much of Europe in a Holy Roman Empire for a few decades in the ninth century, Europeans have dreamed of a revived empire. With the addition of 10 East European states, the European Union, for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has a common border with Russia. But alongside the European dream, a new nightmare is getting into the consciousness of Europeans. Europe now risks undermining itself because it fails to address the 'Muslim question'...A long-standing issue that shows how Europe practices denial of the 'Muslim question' is Europe's persistent refusal to grant membership to Turkey. Turkey was a founding member of NATO in 1950. But during the last 50 years, not a single step was taken to consider bringing in super-secular Turkey. In fact, the three major founding countries, France, Italy and Germany, began the denial and remain its main supporters...Caught between a rock and a hard place, Europe is now attempting to diffuse the issue. The EU has put forth a proposal to create a 'Circle of Europe's Friends.' The CEF would include the countries that have been waiting for the inclusion, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and also other potential friends like Israel, and countries in the Middle East and North Africa. While affirming that currently it is not interested in expanding its borders further, Europe, with this proposal, is offering these countries the possibility to became the EU's most favored trade partners. The CEF may find widespread international acceptance, but so long as Europe persists in excluding Turkey, the Muslim issue is bound to grow, not only in Europe, but also in the Arab and Muslim world of 1 billion-plus people."