December 20, 2005
Will Turkey Join the EU?

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

The Europeans are suffering a severe identity crisis. They don't know who belongs to the tribe. Are the Turks European? Are the Albanians and Bosnians -- who were culturally shaped by the Turks -- European? The Europeans don't even know the geographic boundaries inhabited by such a diffuse tribe. Is Russia part of Europe? Is there a European entity, or is it just some sweet, poetic license behind which hide the usual small and warlike tribes: French, English, Germans, Iberians, Italians and the rest of the troops?

This is not a minor question. Turkey knocks with insistence at the gates of Europe. Turkey brings 70 million inhabitants, its vast territory, three times the size of England, and its Islamic religion. In the 17th century, Western Europe trembled when the Turkish troops besieged Vienna. At the time, the Turks wanted to blast their way in.

Today, Europe trembles because the Turks want to enter nicely, displaying a remarkable record of merits and services. Although imperfect, Turkey is a democracy with a pluralistic parliament and a free press. Its leaders' traditional firm hand -- cruel to the point of martyrdom with Armenians and Kurds -- has lost its harshness with the passing of time, and Islam, without anger or veil, is practiced with a much smaller quota of fanaticism.

In addition, Turkey that has been in NATO since 1952 and, from the southern frontier, defended access to the Mediterranean throughout the Cold War. If the Turks were good enough to fight in Korea and belong to NATO, why aren't they good enough to join the European Union?

Those who oppose Turkey's admission wield several reasons. Demographic density would give the Turks greater weight in the EU's Parliament and other institutions than the English, French or Italians. In 20 years, with their fertility rate they would surpass the Germans, who today are the most numerous.

Some people also fear the migratory wave. The EU is a free space for people, goods and capital. Millions of Turks, whose per-capita income is barely one third that of the Irish, might seek in Europe the opportunities they don't find in their peninsula.

Finally, the pessimists say, the Turks would take Vienna by assault, this time with an army of unemployed people whose inscrutable customs make them hardly assimilable. This massive presence, the naysayers maintain, could degenerate into street riots like the ones recently experienced by the French.

These arguments have no moral or juridical basis, however. In 1993, EU representatives gathered in Denmark and set down the admission requirements for any new states that might want to join the federation. Thus, the Copenhagen Criteria: rule of law, a pluralistic democracy, a market economy and respect for human rights -- including the abolition of torture and the death penalty.

Nothing was said about dimensions, population, wealth or religion. Europe had room for the opulent Dutch monarchy and the much humbler Greek republic. There was room for Germany, with its 90 million inhabitants, and for Luxembourg, a charming operetta duchy with barely 500,000 performers and stagehands who engage zestfully in selling financial services or guarding queasy fortunes.

Turkey meets practically all of those requirements. So what's going to happen with Ukraine if it manages to stabilize its democracy? Will it enter Europe? And what's going to happen if Russia someday knocks at Brussels' doors? Isn't Europe the land of Tolstoy, Dostoevski, Stravinsky and Nabokov?

When the czars sought to save Russia, they Frenchified it to the point of caricature. We can't rule out that some savvy leaders will try to do the same in the future. Europe wouldn't know what to do. The expression ''to die of success'' sometimes can be something more than a paradox.

2005 Firmas Press

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Author Archive
Print This Article
Send Article To a Friend

More Commentary

Why Didn't Bush Ask Congress? - George Will
National Insecurity - Debra Saunders
Merry You-Know-What - Thomas Sowell

More From Carlos Montaner

Castro, the Mafia, the Polls
Natural Rights: Darwin vs. God
Bolivia: Failure of a Nation