OPINION

What kind of Europe?

Is the European Union doomed to expand in perpetuity, transforming itself into an international organization without borders or identity? Or should EU borders forever coincide with those of the continent? Should the EU, in other words, sustain its present shape or should it rather reach beyond its shared culture, its common religious heritage and historical and geographical boundaries? Most politicians believe an eastward expansion will lend the EU more political and economic clout. It will elevate the bloc, they say, into a counterweight to American power and the fledging Asian giants. Such enlargement, they argue, will soothe the cultural antagonism between different peoples and promote the assimilation of the Muslim populations, reducing the risk of a war of civilizations. Finally, taking Turkey on board would satisfy Washington – for which many European governments would be willing to sacrifice much. European federalists, on the other hand, would like to see what is called a deeper Union, rather than a wider one. However, according to the federalist view, Turkish membership in the bloc would put further political integration on the back burner. Sure, Europe need not become a mechanism for rewarding the good behavior of its neighbors. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that after successive waves of enlargement, the EU risks abolishing two of its fundamental elements – the right to membership and its cohesion. At stake, nevertheless, is the product of decades of hard work that resulted in the Lisbon agenda and the European Constitution.