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Turkey in the European Union: the end of the secularist modernization project?

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Carp, Radu

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Abstract Turkey adopted from its very beginning an original project of modernity seen as an alternative both to Westernization and Islam. It seems that this "third way" does not help enough in order to achieve the democratic standards of a European country. This paper analyses not all Turkey modernity aspects, but only secularism, mainly because this was considered for a long time the most successful one. Turkish secularism is based not on a separation between State and Church, but on putting all religious practices and institutions under the control of the State. In order to see what the meaning of secularism in Turkey is right now, this paper addresses the historical background of political parties in Turkey, starting with Refah Party and ending with the latest developments of AK Party of the current Prime Minister Erdoğan. This party tries a unique experiment in Turkey, willing to adapt traditional Islam values to modernization and giving a new meaning to secularism. This paper discuss many issues related to the role of religion in society, either Islam ("the Muslim veil" interpreted by ECHR in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey - 2005, the Alevi community, Imam Hatip schools), or Christian (the new 2008 legal framework on associations acknowledging the right of property of the religious associations, mainly Christian, the ECHR decision on Ecumenical Patriarchate v. Turkey - 2008, the status of the Theological School of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the island of Halki). At this moment, the question if a Muslim majority country could Member State of the European Union is not at stake, but in what extent the European Union may be involved in changing the current Turkey approach on religious freedom, taking into account that there is no European model on Church-State relations. This is the reason why, even in his last 2008 Report, European Commission relies not on the acquis communautaire, but mainly on enforcing ECHR decisions. The question of Turkey belonging to the European Union is addressed in this paper also from the perspective of different types of Europe borders - geographical, institutional, cultural and transactional (formal). No matter the type of border considered, Turkey is still a problematic case. Its European aspirations accelerated the debate on what is and what should be the European Union: a construction based on Western civilization and Christianity or a polity based on democratic values without reference to history or even geography. The paper conclusion is that it is in the very interest of the European Union to accept Turkey and it has to act in such a way that at a certain moment Turkey will transform itself into a country with a similar approach to religious freedom as all other existing Member States.
Keywords EU; border region; European integration; modernity; secularization; Turkey; religion; religious policy; government policy; Islam; national state-church
Classification European Politics; Sociology of Religion; Political Process, Elections, Political Sociology, Political Culture
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 487-500
Journal Studia Politica : Romanian Political Science Review, 9 (2009) 3
ISSN 1582-4551
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works