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Europe

Patten: EU Handling of Turkey Crucial to Avert Islam-West Clash

External relations Commissioner Chris Patten has said that the EU's handling of the Turkish bid for EU membership is a crucial factor in avoiding a clash between the West and the Islamic world.

Speaking at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, the EU's External relations Commissioner Chris Patten argued that the correct treatment of Turkey by the EU would help avert the scenario of a "clash of civilizations" between the western and Islamic world - as famously predicted by the political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1993. "We cannot help but be conscious of the symbolism, at this time, of reaching out a hand to a country whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim," Patten said. Underlining the strategic importance of the upcoming Commission report on Turkey, which will be released next autumn, the Commissioner stated: "I look forward to the debate preceding the Commission’s opinion on the matter in the autumn. In making it, we will be conscious that we potentially pave the way for a very different EU – and that should be squarely and honestly confronted." In his speech, the UK commissioner avoided predicting the exact content of the Commission's report, which will evaluate whether Ankara complies with the EU's criteria on human rights and democracy. But he strongly rejected defining the EU as a "Christian" club - which would make it impossible for Turkey as an Islamic country to join. On the basis of the Commission's opinion in the autumn, EU leaders will decide during a summit in December whether or not to start formal accession negotiations with Turkey. (EUobserver.com)

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