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What is Driving the European Debate about Turkey?

This article explores the cultural politics of European opposition to Turkish accession to the EU. It argues that the foundations of secularism—the powerful a prioris that structure the debate in Europe regarding religion and politics—make it difficult for Europeans to cope with what is often described as an “Islamic challenge” to Europe, both internally and externally. Turkish candidacy makes these stumbling blocks explicit, as Turkey has become the symbolic carrier of domestic European angst about religion, particularly Islam, and politics. Turkish candidacy highlights unfinished business in the social fabric of the core EU members, including what it means to be secular and how religion, including but not limited to Islam, relates to European identity. These sticking points are what the debate over Turkish membership is really about, and it is for this reason that it is culturally—in addition to economically and politically—so contentious.

What is Driving the European Debate about Turkey
There is a sense in Europe that the religion/politics question and its relationship to an ever-evolving European identity be resolved before Turkey is admitted to the EU
 

What is the European debate over Turkish accession really about? The cultural and religious dimensions of this debate are often depicted as a disagreement between those who see the European Union (EU) as a Christian club and those open to a more religiously pluralistic European identity. Yet doubts about Turkish accession resonate with a larger proportion of the European population than the small minority who publicly defend the idea of an exclusivist Christian Europe. Both secularists and Christian exclusivists have expressed hesitations about Turkish membership:

Opposition to Turkish accession is coming from secular as well as religious quarters in Europe. Some nonreligious Europeans worry that bringing a large Muslim country into the EU could endanger the Continent’s tradition of gender equality and tolerance of alternative lifestyles, for instance. For traditionalists, Turkish accession threatens the very idea of Europe as a Christian civilization.2

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