(EU OBSERVER)–Negative commen’s by a high-ranking Cardinal in the Vatican about Turkish membership of the EU have once more stirred the controversial debate.
In an interview last week with Le Figaro magazine–Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger said that Turkey is "in permanent contrast to Europe" and that linking it to Europe would be a mistake.
To make his point he spoke of the Ottoman Empire’s incursions into the heart of Europe in past centuries.
Cultural riches should not be sacrificed for the sake of economic riches–The Cardinal is quoted as saying in Turkish media.
The German–who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith–said that Turkey–which is a predominantly Muslim secular republic–should seek political union with Arab states and not with European countries.
He suggests it "could try to set up a cultural continent with neighboring Arab countries and become the leading figure of a culture with its own identity."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejected the Cardinal’s commen’s.
"The Vatican is a religious state. We are speaking to and making evaluations with EU member countries," said Erdogan–according to Zaman.
All of these commen’s come ahead of some crucial decision in the EU about Ankara’s bid to join the bloc.
The European Commission will publish a report in October on Turkey’s readiness to join. On the basis of this report–EU leaders will make a decision in December. But Turkey already has support from some influential countries in the EU-including the UK and Germany.