What are we to make of David Cameron’s ‘anger’ towards those in Europe who are frustrating progress towards Turkish membership of the EU? The argument you tend to hear in favour of this is that Turkey stands at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, and that it will help Europe establish a community of interest with Muslim countries (well, some of them, anyway).
The price of that, however, is that we change the whole culture of the EU: to begin with, overnight the Muslim population of the EU will rise to around 20%. France and Germany oppose this on the grounds that it will lead to a huge influx of Turkish immigrants: Germany already has 4 million of them.
Turkey would be the EU’s second largest country after Germany.
The cultural arguments against this change are clear enough, and have been expressed by the ‘President of Europe’ Herman Van Rompuy, as follows: “Turkey is not a part of Europe and will never be part of Europe. An expansion of the EU to include Turkey cannot be considered as just another expansion as in the past . . . The universal values which are in force in Europe, and which are fundamental values of Christianity, will lose vigour with the entry of a large Islamic country such as Turkey”.
Of course he wasn’t President of Europe then, but just a Belgian MP; and Joseph Ratzinger wasn’t yet Pope when he said something very similar: in an interview with Le Figaro he said that “Europe is a cultural and not a geographical continent,” and that “Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe,” so to equate the two continents “would be a mistake…. The roots which formed … this continent are those of Christianity.”
But hasn’t the former Cardinal Ratzinger changed his policy now he is Pope? Well, I don’t think so, though there are two views on this. When he visited Turkey, he is supposed, according to the Turkish Prime Minister, to have told him that he had changed his mind. “The pope came bearing a surprise gift…: support for Turkish membership in the European Union” jubilantly reported Der Spiegel.
Well, as far as I can discover, there was no public statement from the Pope himself: and “a papal spokesman” later clarified the Pope’s (private) remarks, saying that he had told the Turkish leader that the Vatican did not have the power or competence to intervene, but “viewed positively and encouraged” the process of Turkish entry into the EU “on the basis of common values and principles” [my italics].
And what might they be? Turkey is a country with an appalling human rights record, which is still some way from satisfying European democratic standards. France and Germany will anyway continue to veto Turkish entry. The Pope knew all that: “as for common values and principles”, Turkish “values and principles” are still “in permanent contrast with those of Europe”: nothing is going to change that.