The conflict raging within Turkey over issues pertaining to the rights of those with strong religious views and those who fear fundamentalist Muslims seek to impose their ideas on the entire population is raising rather complex problems for the European Union. On one hand, the EU wants nations to have governments based on separation of powers and the right of opposing political parties to be heard. On the other hand, the EU does not want religious values and ideas imposed on a population. These two opposing concepts are currently dividing Turkish society. A case brought to the Constitutional Court seeks to ban the ruling Justice and Development Party on grounds it has violated the Turkish constitution by seeking to impose religious practices in secular institutions. Issues in this case exemplify the quandary facing the EU. Which takes precedence– secular rights or the right of a political party to exist?
Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan also has a dilemma. Does he attend the special session being held by the EU group PACE to discuss the issue? Does he abstain to avoid making comments by the government while a court case is pending? The opposition Republican People’s Party is furious at Babacan and wants him to remain silent. To add to the complexity of the current situation, many political leaders in Turkey are upset at attempts by the EU to influence internal Turkish issues.
There is no simple solution to these issues. In some manner, all Turkish political parties have to create a solution which protects the rights of secular groups while granting those with strong religious values a right to education.