The Vatican has been pushing 
the EU's Christian heritage

The foreign minister of the papal state, Monsignor Jean-Louis Tauran,  said on Sunday "there was a problem" with Turkey’s candidacy, in an interview with  Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
     
"Is it possible that all countries sharing the heritage of values dear to Europe can submit their candidatures to join the union? Is there not a need to impose geographical frontiers on this union?"  French-born Mgr Tauran said.
  
As work on the future European constitution advances the Vatican has been placing heavy emphasis on the EU's Christian roots.

European identity

The Roman Catholic church is intent on underlining this heritage in the preamble to the  EU constitution draft, wishing to see reference to "religious, and specially Christian, heritage" in the basic text.

"Even the more general mention of 'religious heritage' would not be enough," he said.

Another senior Roman Catholic cleric, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, said the EU had been posed an extremely delicate problem by the application from Turkey, which he described as a deeply Muslim country with a fast-growing population.

Ruini, who is head of the Conference of Italian Bishops, did however say that admitting Turkey to the EU would improve the lot of its small Christian minority.

Ongoing debate

Giscard: No place for Turkey

Last year, former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who is currently drafting an EU constitution, remarked that Turkey does not belong in the European Union.
 
He emphasized the historic and cultural differences between Muslim Turkey and the Christian West.

Turkey has a tiny fragment of its territory west of the Bosporus, bordering Greece and Bulgaria, which is geographically in Europe. However, the country's great landmass, along with the majority of its 70 million people, lies in Asia.

Senior analyst, Phillipe Moreau de Farge of the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, claims that if Turkey becomes a member, the concept of Europe would be profoundly changed.

"If Turkey joins the European Union … the European Union will be no longer a European structure. It will be a Euro-Middle East structure," he says.
 
Analyst Faruk Sen, of the Centre for Turkish Studies at Essen University in Germany claims that "in Europe there are still forces that emphasize cultural and religious differences instead of taking the basic values of the European Union as their measure."
 
Another independent analyst, Brussels-based Stefan Maarteel, says that although people living within a Christian tradition are "very cautious" about Islam, “in the long run … Turkey belongs to Europe on other grounds -- namely that it has always been a part of European history… it is the most secularized Muslim state in the world, and can act as a strong base for the European Union in the Middle East."