The President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, underlined here Monday that Islam is part and parcel of Europe and he also condemned the concept of clash of civilisations.
“Islam today is part of Europe. It is important to understand this. One should not see Islam as outside Europe. We already have an important presence of Islam and Muslims among our citizens,” Barroso told a press conference this afternoon after an informal dialogue between EU leaders and around twenty high-level representatives of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in Europe.
“We can be a European citizen being a Christian, being Jewish or Muslim or having no religion,” he noted.
On his part, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr.Mustafa Ceric, said Islam is indeed part of Europe but unfortunately Turkey is not yet part of Europe.
“Following this logic Europe has to prove that Islam is part of Europe by not delaying the acceptance of Turkey to the EU,” Ceric told the joint press conference.
Many people in Turkey and the Muslim world believe that Turkey will not be accepted as an EU member because it is a Muslim country.
Mondays meeting was co-chaired by European Commission President Barroso, Slovenian Prime Minister and current President of the European Council, Janez Jansa, and the President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering.
This year’s meeting focused on two major challenges facing the European Union: Climate Change and Reconciliation.
This was the fourth such annual meeting with religious leaders and the second involving the Presidents of the three EU institutions. The initiative was launched by President Barroso in 2005.
Barroso said that the inter-faith dialogue proved that “preachers of clash of civilisations are wrong”.
Janez Jansa told reporters that “the environment is not only natural but also a sacred place. Community and loalty between man, nature and the Creator is a basic principle of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike”.
Slovenia, he said, would like to create an Euro-Mediterranean university which will be a meeting place for young people coming from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish world.
A charter will be signed on 9 June in Slovenia, which holds the current EU Presidency, on creating this new university.
EP President Pottering said “intercultural dialogue is an important contribution to the European Union’s relations with its neighbouring countries, in particular in the Mediterranean region”.
He noted that since the EU has declared 2008 as the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, the high-level meeting is a welcome opportunity to focus o on the topic of “Reconciliation through intercultural and inter-faith dialogue”.