Merkel deputy calls on Turkey to defend rights

Merkel deputy calls on Turkey to defend rights

HANOVER - Reuters
Merkel deputy calls on Turkey to defend rights

Chancellor Merkel’s ally Kauder calls on Turkey to defend religious rights. AFP photo

A leading ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Turkey yesterday to show it was serious about defending religious freedoms if it wanted to join the EU, saying it should let Christians build churches without restrictions.

Volker Kauder, leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) in Parliament, told a party congress he expected a “clear signal” on the issue from the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan before membership talks could continue. “A country that wants to be part of Europe must accept the basic principle of religious freedom,” he said.

“That means, that we expect Christians in Turkey to be able to build churches without any restrictions, just as Muslims build mosques here in Germany,” he said. Kauder’s comments were seen as more of an appeal to members of his party who are skeptical about letting a Muslim-majority country into the EU, rather than an active attempt to block Turkey’s membership talks, which are already stalled.
The EU has in the past criticized Turkey’s treatment of its Christian minorities, including Greek Orthodox and Armenians.

But recent EU reports on Turkey’s accession talks have not referred to any restrictions on building places of Christian worship.