By Dean Carroll | 17 December 2010


  • Introduction
EU_Flag

There is a broad consensus that the influence of the European Union (EU), in promoting its economic and social norms across central and eastern Europe, led to democratic consolidation and transition from central plan to market economies in the accession states of the 2004 fifth wave of enlargement.1 Despite the current economic crisis, which has led to near bankruptcy in countries like Latvia and Romania, the push is still on for further meritocratic integration to the south and the east in order to create peace, stability, conformity and economic growth.

The challenge is to create a suitable landscape, through conditionality, for Bulgaria , Romania , Croatia , the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia , Albania , Serbia and Montenegro , Turkey , Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina – to adopt economic and social reform programmes conducive to eventually meeting the acquis communautaire. As well as Balkan states and those in South East Europe – even the Ukraine , Moldova , Belarus , Morocco and Georgia have signalled their interest in eventual membership.

It is obvious that the short-term pain necessary for accession states – in terms of market competition and open borders that may result in economic migration of workers as well as unemployment, lower company profits and increased ethnic conflict – is needed to raise national output and growth rates in the long term by way of EU membership and this is difficult for both the supranational body and its suitors. Potential accession states must be given the right balance of hope, with regard to membership, and high expectations in terms of their normative standards. Praised and incentivised when progress is made and punished when it is not – just as member state Bulgaria was last year when fined for failing to tackle corruption adequately since its accession.2

Further enlargement brings risk for all concerned but introspection and a turning inwards of Europe’s geopolitical polity will only damage national interests in non-member states and the EU’s reputation as a global actor, according to Bretherton and Vogler,3 at a time when US and western hegemony is fading and a new multi-polar world is emerging as power shifts east.

As the European Commission itself claims:

‘The EU must define its role in the world as a beacon of stability and influence on international affairs, as a promoter of peace and development – seeking to come to terms with globalisation whilst enabling its citizens to take advantage of the opportunities it offers.’4

In this article, I will argue that the selection of future members must be strict but also simultaneously incentivised if the EU is to fulfill its potential as a transnational multi-ethnic, multi-cultural project that aids and unifies nation states under an umbrella of shared values rather than allowing nationalistic competition to create economic decline, xenophobia and even warfare in Eurasia.5 The timetable for a further wave of enlargement may be long and gradual but it must be limited purely by the pace of reform in potential membership countries – through conditionality and the European Neighbourhood Policy – with only the high levels of state-centricity6 acting as an obstacle to progress – if the EU is to rival the likes of the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China as a future economic and political power.

  • How selective should the EU be when selecting its future members?

Some theorists such as Menon and Weatherhill7 believe that the EU can reinforce regulatory answers on nations struggling to solve domestic problems, through top-down Europeanisation that reshapes states to mirror EU norms and standards. Blavoukos and Pagoulatos go as far as claiming that the union is capable of rescuing states by

‘…taming them within a sophisticated multilateral institutional framework which not only prevents them exporting their ills to their neighbours but offers them an arena both for finding common solutions to common problems and for enhancing their capacity to meet the expectations of their citizens’.8

This approach would certainly be of value in the Balkans where residual worker collectivism, risk aversion in the private sector, corruption, fraud and organised crime are barriers to a smooth transition from central plan to market economies – as Liargovas and Chionis9 claim. It is often argued that states reaching candidate status or even those affected by the neighbourhood policy have already made dramatic strides towards neo-liberal ideology, minority protection, reconciliation and relative peace.

Richmond suggests the EU should retain its power to offer incentives to potential candidate countries without confirming membership in advance. By doing so, says Richmond, it adds a new dimension to its ambitions – enabling the EU framework to ‘…become the midwife of new states or the guarantor of fragile peace settlements as a result of and in addition to, its catalytic role’.10 Running counter to this is the view that phrases like virtual and potential members are merely rhetorical carrots unfairly prodding states along the institutional paths dictated within the EU by way of false promises.

Johnson calls for more clarity from Europe’s leaders, claiming: ‘Certainly the EU strategy for engagement with the Balkans, with its varied forms of full membership, candidacy for membership, and potential membership, is a project with nebulous end-goals.’11 But I would argue that the Stabilisation and Accession Process, launched in Zagreb in 2000, does offer a well-defined forward thinking strategy mapping progression. It has also been supported by the Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation programme, which saw 4.6 billion euros handed to the western Balkans between 2000 and 2006.12

As Rose states:

‘Just as the European Union was not built in a day, so a government cannot achieve EU membership overnight. It took more than a decade of discussions for eight post-Communist countries to be admitted to the European Union in 2004. At its 1993 Council of Ministers meeting in Copenhagen, the EU set out five membership criteria that applicant countries should meet: democratic institutions, the rule of law, respect for human and minority rights, a functioning market economy and an effective public administration.’13 It is hard to argue against any of these broad principles for state development or the European Commission’s ambition to ‘…become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world’.14

Whether the EU’s desired ‘…zone of prosperity and a friendly neighbourhood’15 can ever be a total reality still remains questionable. But there is no doubt that the aim is to bring the ‘…near abroad’ closer to, if not inside the club of Europe by way of ‘… Brussels magnetism’.15 Zielonka16 suggests that southern and eastern nations are very poor. But so were central and eastern states before accession and the arrival of neo-liberalism in the guise of the EU. Using Romania as an example, we can see that GNP per capita was just $610 in the 1990s but rose to an estimated $9,100 in 2006 as a result of market liberalisation – although the country has since been badly hit by the credit crunch.

Loans from the European Investment Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will have to become commonplace to prop up the economies of the poorer EU nations to keep the enlargement project alive while fighting off nation-state protectionism and addressing the economic unsuitability of some states hoping for EU membership. For, it is clear that the EU’s globalised vision goes beyond immediate neighbours as well with an almost benign approach of spreading westernised norms. As the second largest global importer of goods, it now inserts democracy clauses in trade agreements with North Africa17 and Latin America .

Even more so than other international institutions – including the World Bank and the IMF – the EU does indeed, through the Copenhagen criteria18, apply pressure to ‘…re-make the political and economic systems of the applicant countries

in its own image’.19 This indoctrination is not always viewed positively by the demos in the candidate country but fear of loss of national identity is accepted and often overwhelmed by positivity about employment and trade opportunities, although there are mitigating factors as Karp and Bowler contend (see Table 1).20

 

Table 1. Expectations about preferences for European Integration

Widen
Against

Eurosceptic

Favour

Hesitant

Against National pride

Lack of confidence in EU institutions

Instrumental reasons, that

Is, economic growth

Deepen
Hesitant Integrationist
Favour Instrumental reasons, that is,

Farmers, loss of subsidies,

Concern about weakening

Union and effectiveness of institutions

European orientations

Confidence in EU

institutions

 

But as McLaren states, the public ‘…have perhaps learned to tolerate such fears and still supports their country’s EU membership in very large numbers because of the economic and political benefits’.21 This is clearly apparent from Table 2, which shows that the average percentage of EU citizens who are concerned about the loss of national identity but still think membership to be a good idea is 43.7 per cent, while those who think membership to be a bad idea amounts to just 19.2 per cent. Evaluating the Table 2 data, McLaren states ‘…while large proportions of EU citizens do indeed fear that the EU is threatening their national identity and culture, the effect of this fear on attitudes is not all that substantial’.

 

Table 2. Concepts about the loss of national identity and opposition to integration

Country % Afraid % Afraid who
think membership
in EU is bad
% Afraid who
think membership
in EU is good
% Afraid who have
no opinion on
goodness or badness
of EU membership
Italy 38.1 14.4 47.6 38.0
Belgium 42.1 12.5 48.1 39.5
Netherlands 42.1 10.2 62.9 27.0
Austria 42.1 38.2 19.0 42.8
W. Germany 42.3 21.3 39.5 39.3
E. Germany 42.6 19.0 31.0 50.0
Spain 42.8 6.8 59.3 33.9
Sweden 43.9 47.2 18.5 34.3
Denmark 45.0 35.1 32.2 32.7
Finland 46.3 31.5 28.7 39.8
Luxembourg 47.6 4.1 75.2 20.7
Portugal 50.8 6.3 52.6 41.1
France 53.2 21.9 33.7 44.4
Ireland 57.5 5.7 74.0 20.3
Britain 60.0 29.3 20.9 49.8
Greece 65.5 9.0 59.6 31.4
N. Ireland 66.5 6.7 47.1 46.2
EU 48.0 19.2 43.7 37.1

And it is true that, as Favell points out, Jean Monnet’s often quoted comment about how ‘…European integration should have begun with culture not economy’22 still has not adequately been addressed. Economic concerns are primary for both citizens and political elites – although the success of Norway and others through agreements with the EU on tariffs and trade prove that membership is about more than just a free trade area – but a common European identity could be crafted over time if the democratic deficit23 of the European Union is addressed. The European Foundation for Quality of Life Survey 200324 shows that just 35 per cent of citizens, over the age of 15, across the EU are able to converse in English and use the internet. Rightly or wrongly, Rose insists these skills are vital for significant participation in the European public space.

At the moment, we know that European Parliament (EP) elections are considered to be second-order by citizens still attached to domestic politics. Evidence on EP turnout shows that it is relatively low when compared to national elections. 25 George and Bache26 prescribe greater scrutiny of EU legislation by member states, an extension of EP powers and improved interaction between domestic and supranational institutions as essential in bridging the democratic deficit and legitimising continued enlargement. But still, some optimistic commentators like Hix27 predict that the EU will expand to 35 member states over the next decade despite the current lack of democratisation of the supranational body’s institutions. The most common allegation (36 per cent) examined by the European Ombudsman in the Annual Report 2008 was lack of transparency in EU administration.28 These concerns must be rightfully addressed to get overwhelming public support for EU integration.

In the case of a number of Balkan states, specifically, the trials that will need to be overcome to allow for EU expansion are generous in scale. The transition from central plan to market economies is often held back by rampant inflation, institutional uncertainties, cash-flow blockages, a lack of skills and financially superior external competitors – argue Liargovas and Chionis.29 But the rise of the emerging BRIC economies combined with recent debate about merging the defence capabilities and strategies of the EU and the North American Treaty Organisation (NATO) provide huge incentives for the West to widen its sphere of influence.

For, Russia and China have intensified military co-operation between them in recent years.30 The burgeoning strategic partnership could even result in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation emerging as an intergovernmental rival to NATO. Especially, as Russia seems unlikely to ever be allowed, or to desire, entry into the EU. It is clear that Russia sees its future, instead, in partnership with China and inside the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The New Russia Barometer 2008 31 shows that 20 per cent of citizens feel that the country’s future definitely lies with the CIS while 46 per cent say it is more likely to be with the CIS than western Europe. And just 28 per cent suggest they are more inclined to Europe than the CIS while only 6 per cent say they definitely see a future within Europe for Russia .

It is often said that the cardinal problem in defining Europe for the last 500 years has been whether or not to include Russia in its boundaries. Davies says that throughout modern history, an autocratic and economically backward Russia has been seen as ‘…a bad fit’,32 leading western neighbours to look for reasons to exclude her despite the cultural heritage of Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Chekhov. The behaviour of the Bolsheviks after 1917 confounded the west’s view of Russia as a land of barbarians in the mould of Attila or Genghis Khan, in his view. Russians themselves viewed Western Europe as decadent, says Davies.

Although Lenin saw himself as the heir to the tradition of the French Revolution and assumed the Russian Revolution would be followed by similar uprisings in the West, which could potentially create a Unites States of Europe . But Stalin was much more isolationist and distanced the regime from the West. As a result of decades of totalitarian rule, the Soviet Union became highly xenophobic but the European identity remained intact in many people, including Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia –explains Davies. Some commentators have suggested that Britain ‘s European credentials are no less ambiguous than Russia ‘s. The initiators of the first pan-European movement in the 1920s assumed that neither Britain nor Russia would join. But Davies says Europe ‘s shared history of the enlightenment, modernisation, romanticism, nationalism, liberalism, imperialism and totalitarianism should be recognised and, like the bloody wars and many religions, accepted as a multi-faceted heritage. He concludes: ‘There is diversity in the varying rhythms of power and of decline. Guizot, the pioneer, was not alone in thinking of diversity as Europe ‘s prime characteristic.’

Looking back to European and US alignment, Smith and Timmins argue that there has, indeed, already been ‘…incremental linkage’33 between the expansion of NATO and EU enlargement since the end of the Cold War. Widespread common membership between NATO and the EU means this theory is borne out (see Table 3). This has already, perhaps, laid the foundations for a ‘…virtually pan-European security order’34 as Sperling speculates. And Lucas states that

‘…the prospect of European and Atlantic integration is the best magnet for good government – the idea that you have to behave and you cannot do things that you might like to because you want to join our clubs has been a great source of stability and prosperity across our continents’.35 Laidi even goes as far as to refer to this as a ‘…normative empire’.36

 

Table 3. EU and NATO members (2005) 

Common members NATO only EU only
Belgium

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

France

Greece

Germany

HungaryItaly

Latvia

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Netherlands

Poland

Portugal

Slovakia

Slovenia

Spain

UK

 

Bulgaria

Canada

Iceland

Norway

Romania

Turkey

USA

Austria

Cyprus

Finland

Ireland

Malta

Sweden

 

If it is true that EU integration in central and Eastern Europe was a direct response of the collapse of communism, which meant that the integration process had to be recalibrated as Zielonka and Mair37 contend, I would suggest that further enlargement to the south and east is a natural reaction to the rise of the BRIC economies, globalisation and the need for new and stable energy supplies to the west – as a new world order emerges with global power concentrated in the east. In-depth future research is needed in this area. For, the European Commission Public Opinion Survey Eurobarometer 7038 shows that an overwhelming 48 per cent of people feel that the 2004 enlargement has strengthened the EU while just 36 per cent think it has weakened the supranational body – as we can see from Table 4.

Even those who are sceptical about how far east the EU can reach, like Fuchs and Klingerman,39 do not rule out eventual enlargement to the Slavic successor nations to the Soviet Union ( Russia , Ukraine , Belarus and Moldova ). Although Fuchs and Klingerman say this is where the solid boundaries of Europe must be drawn for now due to the difference between their style of governance and culture and that of the west, they do acquiesce that ‘…they cannot, at least not yet, be considered democratic communities’ compatible with the EU. This open statement notably leaves the door open for the scholars to change their opinion at a later stage.

 

Table 4. Since 2004 the European Union enlarged from 15 to 27 countries. Overall, how would you judge this enlargement of the European Union?

It has strengthened the European Union 48%
It has weakened the European Union 36%
Don’t know/ no answer 16%

 

Tackling this question, Fouskas maintains that a ‘…strong, united EU’ could indeed assimilate former Soviet satellites states, solving border disputes and easing ethnic tensions through its ‘…powerful instruments of conflict management and resolution’.40 He claims: ‘The ultimate goal should be the creation of a non-hegemonic, social democratic Eurasian administration under the aegis of Eurasian powers.’ Fouskas concludes ‘…after the failure of Third Way socialism in the 1990s, Europe’s political unification can only be the work of a new socialist political class, which should seek a permanent understanding with all democratic, Christian and anti-nationalist forces’.

Put another way by Rose, it seems the negatives of EU membership are easily outweighed by the positives and the threat of the alternative. He explains that

‘…the biggest goal of transformation has been achieved. Central and East Europeans are now integrated as full participants in the European political process. As Winston Churchill once remarked, ‘jaw, jaw is better than war, war’, and the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe have seen more than enough of war’.41

Working from the hypothesis that common identity or the ‘…we feeling’42 grows with interaction as Jones and van der Bijl insist, we can surely surmise that eastern and southern enlargement will create an aggregation of values outside of the boundaries in which the EU currently sits – either by accession, stabilisation or neighbourhood policy.

This may be true but many scholars43 – including Haukkala, Tzifakis, Sasse and Schimmelfennig and Scholtz – suggest that the neighbourhood policy, used as a substitute for accession, is actually damaging to the union as it offers countries no institutional belonging to Europe . Haukkala claims: ‘By relinquishing enlargement, the EU is in danger of losing its capacity for effectively stabilising its nearest neighbours as well as losing its legitimacy and justification in their eyes.’ Looking critically at Haukkala’s sentiment that the EU is deliberately approaching its geographical and normative power limits, I would have to say that the Lisbon Treaty and already promised further enlargement prove this is not the case.

Far eastern and southern neighbours may not be as easily integrated as the central and eastern European countries but that is not to say the EU will accept its current footprint as the end. As I have alluded to, the rise of the BRIC countries in coming decades – and the need to tackle cross-border issues including global warming and an ageing population – will strengthen the political will and administrative resolve; perhaps, even meaning there is no choice but enlargement in order to gain the safety and capacity of even greater critical mass. Baun says that the widening of the EU is driven by moral obligation and economic imperatives, and without it ‘…instability in Eastern and South-eastern Europe could generate such security problems for the EU as increased inflows of refugees and asylum seekers, transborder environmental pollution, and increased international criminal activity and political terrorism’.44

Especially if, as Eyal predicts, NATO is set for an ‘…unavoidable clash of interests with Russia transfixed by Cold War logic that still harbours imperial ambitions’.45 Similarly, Zamoyski’s view is that: ‘There are still plenty of states out there bent on aggression – one only has to think of Russia, China and Iran.’46 He adds: ‘But one lesson to be learnt from the past couple of centuries is surely that European Christian humanist civilisation, with its fruits of democracy, civil liberty and all the rest, is in itself a very powerful weapon.’ It is argued that Eurasia has become a ‘…decisive geopolitical chessboard’47 as the supercontinent accounts for 60 per cent of the world’s GNP and 75 per cent of its energy resources. Future international alliances and the strategies of the BRIC countries as well as Middle East states could produce fresh conflicts. Already, we have seen the EU taking tentative steps towards NATO as a framework for its collective military defensive force – as I have explained.

Chellaney argues that once economic power structures change, military power will inevitably follow – possibly fuelling the divide between multi-culturalism and mono-culturalism where the global village that western world leaders have promised disappears and protectionism, nationalism and terrorism flourish. He argues that marginalised people in middle and low-income countries have no stake in globalisation and concludes:

‘In the past, the competition for a balance of power was centred on Europe . Even the Cold War was not really an East-West rivalry but rather competition between two blocs over Europe . For the first time, we are facing the task of building power equilibrium across the world while simultaneously having to both adjust to new power shifts and deal with transnational challenges.’48

It may mean that a unified foreign policy – and even a collective army – is needed in ‘… a more self-confident Europe’, claim Janning and Weidenfield.49 They insist this is preferable to a two-speed Europe or tiered EU system if the supranational body is to reach 30 member states and beyond in a long term vision where the ‘…union has no definitive boundaries’ and, possibly, reaches as far as Israel. Janning and Weidenfeld advocate the neighbourhood policy and no closed list of possible candidate countries to achieve this. In effect, this is the status quo that exists now – in theory at least. Cameron too insists that the EU’s ‘…soft security’ must be backed by ‘…a hard security component if it is to act credibly on the world stage’.50

Even if we do accept that the neighbourhood policy is enlargement avoidance, as Haukkala argues, this stance is not sustainable. We know there is talk of Croatia joining the EU as early as 2011 if corruption is rooted out, the shipbuilding industry is restructured, mediation continues over the border dispute with Slovenia and judiciary processes are improved – to send a message to other nations that reforms do pay off. The accession process of Macedonia is slow but not insurmountable while Turkey has indicated that its stalled domestic reforms will gather pace again. Iceland has also become a good bet for rapid inclusion since the positive public change of mood towards membership of the EU following the country’s banking collapse.51 The growing strength and stability of the Euro as the world’s second reserve currency52 has put pressure on all of the country’s political parties to support union membership and inclusion in the Eurozone despite the unemployment rate in the 16-member euro area surging to 8.2 per cent in January 2009 – according to Eurostat.53

Recent efforts have also seen the creation of the Black Sea Synergy Scheme and the Eastern Partnership – to refresh the neighbourhood policy. As a result of the Eastern Partnership – the Ukraine , Georgia , Azerbaijan , Armenia , Moldova and Belarus could be treated as a regional trading bloc by the EU, says Traynor. These nations may no longer be negotiated with bilaterally, in an effort to bring them outside of Russia ‘s sphere of influence. It is felt that this would help to combat the energy crisis and prevent Russia using its gas supplies as a foreign policy tool. It is not yet clear though whether the results of the partnership would influence future membership bids positively or negatively. As Traynor reports:

‘The new policy looks like an attempt to ring-fence Russia , precipitated by Moscow ‘s behaviour over the past year. It amounts to a long-term exercise in European soft power aimed at seducing and cajoling the messy, corrupt, and unstable post-Soviet states out of the Russian orbit.’54

The EU is the largest global economic trading bloc with more than 22 per cent of the world’s GDP and more than 17 per cent of trade. 55 The idea that the EU will enter into paralysis – either because of its allegedly alienating neighbourhood policy, as Haukkala suggests, or the economic crisis – seems doubtful. Especially as it is recognised that most of the world’s natural resources – such as oil and gas reserves – sit outside its current boundaries; meaning new energy transit routes are necessary to sustain Europe – according to Fouskas. 56 No doubt we will see further IMF bail outs to eastern – and even western – European states but in the long term, once economic growth has returned, that should not prevent further accessions.

Alternative visions of a ‘…multi-speed Europe’57 that allows flexibility in terms of countries differing attitudes towards integration – outside of the concentric power circles of core Europe – but imposes certain fundamental values (the common market, foreign affairs and immigration policy) is another possible solution. But would such marked differentiation satisfy either the outer ring of members or the inner circle? Zientara argues that a de facto example of this scenario already exists with EU states, as members and non-members of the Eurozone coexist peacefully. This mainly economic coalition of the willing model, in my view, would create a loosely-knit union that at times of immense pressure and crisis would be prone to systemic collapse – reinforcing the cultural and religious divides between old and new Europe rather than healing them.

There can be no doubt that the momentum towards further EU integration is swinging in favour of the Balkans and South East Europe, even if it is harder to join the EU now than ever before and the argument that ‘…enlargement is a win-win process’ by Mayhew58 is somewhat simplistic. The fact that there may be an ‘…expectation gap’59 as to the speed of the next wave of enlargement, as occurred in central and eastern Europe in the mid 1990s, should not be overplayed. This is inevitable as are the accusations of normative imperialism levelled at the EU by

Zielonka and the prevalence of ethnic nationalism and political extremism during an economic downturn in the countries, which are not offered a concrete timetable for accession by the union and, instead, are subject to ‘…conditionality-lite’60 through the neighbourhood policy.

Of course, additional integration is stalled until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified in any case. Even once this challenge is met, the process of the next phase of widening the union will only be at the beginning. Vachudova61 insists the EU will need to use its leverage in a more confrontational and proactive way, than in 2004, as enlargement pushes previously untested physical, cultural and economic boundaries. There is no question though that the union will abandon the ideal of enlargement; the trend is irreversible as recent decades have proved. The ‘…big bang of 2004’62 was years in the making and it is likely that this will be the case in relation to the countries of eastern and south Eastern Europe. Only by cementing a sense of European solidarity and identity, albeit by economic means, will Europe avoid a return to the sectarianism of its past and enter a metaphorical new Pax Romana63 era of prolonged piece.

The polar opposite to integration is disintegration and no progressive European leader will countenance regression when there is an opportunity to proceed forwards by propelling EU norms to new geographical territories. As Vachudova explains, the conditionality of becoming a credible future EU member has compelled states to become liberal democracies in central and Eastern Europe . Similar incentives also have the potential to replicate this process in the Balkan states and elsewhere. On EU enlargement, Vachudova insists ‘…the policy challenge is to sustain, adjust and improve this leverage so that it can work even in the much tougher cases of the western and eastern Balkan states’.64 On this theme, she suggests that enlargement into the Balkan states would allow the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy – backed up by the European Security and Defence Policy – to have its greatest successes, by stabilising the region and enforcing the supranational body’s stature as a key international actor.

  • Conclusion

To summarise, the debate over whether to expand or not is really not one worth pursuing. The questions are when, where and how quickly the EU should pursue another wave of enlargement despite the pressures on cohesion and integration that will be created as a result. Otherwise, as Leonard explains: ‘The choice is to get involved with our neighbours now and create the incentives for them to change – or to face the potentially violent consequences of collapse later and pay a much higher price then.’65 He adds:

‘The point is not to offer membership – that is clearly unrealistic for many of Europe’s new neighbours – but we should certainly not close off the possibility. We must be fuzzy about where the borders of the union will lie, but crystal clear about what countries need to do to hope to join.’

So, I would stress that the EU should be selective only to the point of expecting future members to meet its economic and social standards. Religious and cultural differences should not be used as an excuse to veto any state’s candidacy unless they contravene the union’s norms of human rights and democracy. Pure homogeneity must not be the goal – rather it should be celebrated heterogeneity through a partnership of countries adhering to some universal traits and values as well as establishing unbreakable partnership links that in future must define the supranational body. With this approach, the EU can truly become a global actor in the policy areas of trade, the environment, humanitarian aid and even in terms of military capabilities while fostering peace, development, social equality, economic prosperity, civil liberty, individual freedoms and scientific and intellectual innovation.

Only such affirmative action will counter suspicions of Eurocentrism66, which critics suggest results in the EU extolling only fundamental western belief systems as narrow prerequisites for states hoping to gain accession – including Muslim nations like Turkey . Continuing to class Turkey , for example, as an ‘…outsider’67 or partitioning the Southern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans through the concept of ‘…otherness’68 is a dangerous and outdated strategy when considered against cross-border concerns and the need for energy and military security in a globalised age.

Turks are often stereotyped by Europeans as authoritarian, Muslim, and unconcerned with social and gender equality despite the flexibility of the Koran, which separates religion from politics by devoting only a tenth of its 600 verses to legislation68. Such prejudice is unhelpful as, already, some 18 million of the EU’s total population of 500 million are Muslim citizens concerned with pluralism, democracy and individualism in the main. Turkey ‘s EU membership could, indeed, spur greater diversity and cultural cohesiveness in the European community as well as improved relations between the West and Arab and Muslim states69. It could be argued that this would be a step towards ‘…moving on from the politics of the polis, founded on borders, to that of the cosmopolis, founded on sharing’ as Archibugi puts it.70

The alternative to embracing Turkey and other new members inside the EU is to witness such nations develop stronger links with China and Russia while enabling a renaissance of nationalism. This could easily occur rather than a potential universal modernity, which according to Hobsbawm71 did contain indigenous cultures during the Cold War modernisation projects of capitalism and communism.

As Cooper72 suggests, Turkey could also conceivably switch from the pursuit of EU integration to attempts to become a regional Asian power. The opportunity to create a pan-European sense of identity would be diminished by the resurgence of the state in the East and not just in Turkey but, possibly, in other failed accession countries. A result that Krol believes may result in territorial wars and ‘…another triumph of some form of barbarianism’.73 The benefits to new member states and the EU in terms of liberalised markets, urban regeneration and security intelligence as well as potential military strength – should the EU opt for a collective military defence force or strategic culture as Edwards suggests74 – mean Eurocentrist views will become irrelevant as time marches on and new members are permitted inside the European tent. Fears over widening membership will be marginalised if the EU reaches out ‘…beyond a European finalite’ as Berg and van Meurs75 put it.

Without this progression, a dangerous divide between the East and West, which keeps Turkey and others on the outside of Europe, could escalate making the fears of mass immigration and porous borders with totalitarian neighbouring states seem like minor concerns when compared to the prospect of conventional warfare or weakened trade agreements and increased cultural/religious conflicts. Claims that the EU can go no further in terms of unification by Barzini76 must be overcome through a focus on improved international relations, cooperation on anti-terrorism strategies, liberalised markets and shared stable natural resource supplies – so that Turkey, like other candidate countries, is not forced into ‘…a reversal of alliances or wars with its many neighbours’.77 It may take 10 or 15 years or more but South Eastern European and Balkan states actually have the potential to transcend cultural and religious boundaries, the East-West divide and to redefine the principles of the Western world and the EU. The potential for even greater cross-border unity is clear if the belief system of Eurocentrism is disproved conclusively and the inside/outside hypothesis78 is consigned to history.

 

Dean Carroll is a European Politics and Culture masters student at Keele University in the UK as well as a senior journalist on Public Servant magazine. His research interests include the European Union, political party types and globalisation.

 

Address for correspondence: Public Servant magazine, Ebenezer House, Ryecroft, Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire , ST5 2UB , UK . E-mail: dcarroll@publicservant.co.uk