Austria reminds Ankara of the need for full religious freedom
The Austrian foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik, used the opportunity of a visit to Turkey to pay homage to ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, and to express her support for him: the patriarch, she maintained, contributes tirelessly, both personally and through his office, to the promotion of interreligious dialogue, to the reinforcement of better understanding among human beings, and in his effort to build a world where everyone can live without fear, practice his religion freely, or live without any religious creed. "I think this is how the conception of religious freedom should be interpreted, as it must be guaranteed in the social life of the EU. Religious freedom is one of the presuppositions for the whole of Europe's values and ideals. It is part of the negotiations for countries asking to enter [the European Union]".
Shortly before this, in a joint conference with Turkish foreign minister Ali Babacan, Plassnik had stated that the entry of Turkey into the EU will not be automatic. For his part, Babacan insisted only upon full membership. The patriarch himself, in an interview with Cyprian journalist A. Viketos, has restated that the ecumenical patriarchate is in favour of Turkey's full membership in the EU.
So on the one hand, there is visible support for the attempt at reform promoted by Erdogan, but on the other there is a certain reluctance over Turkey's entry into the EU. It is a reluctance that is rooted above all in German-speaking European countries, which is explained in part by the resistance to integration shown by Turkish immigrant communities in these countries.
This attitude, according to sociological studies and diplomatic and journalistic sources, is due in part to the manipulation suffered by these communities on the part of Turkish institutions, with close ties to the derin devlet (the "deep state"), which use various associations to this end. This blocks their emancipation, and the possibility that this would be brought back to the country of origin. This would bring beneficial effects to Turkish society and institutions, moulding it according to the true European model.
The imams have played a fundamental role in this process. The imams are greatly resented by the secular state in Turkey, but in its hands they have become an excellent instrument for controlling the Turkish communities abroad. Besides, in the Turkish tradition more praise and emphasis is given to the concept of conquest than to that of liberalisation and freedom. To the concept, in short, of knowing how to concede.