An EU stretched too far

The looming collapse of Turkey’s EU talks before they have even started confirms that, for European governments, Ankara’s refusal to recognize Cyprus was merely a pretext used to revise their wrongheaded strategy. Vienna is once again halting the Sultan at the gates of Europe – a role that Athens and Nicosia could not afford to play. But the loose-tongued Austrians do not speak only for themselves. The recent setback in the European Parliament and French calls for a «clearly controlled» application process for Turkey indicate the change of mood. For how can one explain the shift of big states which – after pressuring Athens for years to lift its Turkey veto – have now, at the 11th hour, unearthed the problem of Cyprus, the Kurdish issue, the Armenian killings, even the cases of torture in Turkey’s psychiatric clinics. In Turkish eyes, that can only be a sign of growing reluctance to let Ankara hop on the EU train. What the expanding alliance of Turkey-skeptics fail to see is that the rushed expansion of the bloc was a blunder of mammoth proportions. Enlargement was decided in the wake of German reunification as Berlin reckoned that its unmatched economic leverage would turn the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe into satellites. Britain wanted the same thing for different reasons. Eastward enlargement, it was believed, would put European plans for political and military emancipation from the US on the back burner and take the dismantling of Europe’s social state a step further. In the end, it was London, not Berlin, who smiled. In this context, the clamor over Turkish membership has catapulted onto center stage the concerns over Europe’s geographical stretch, which threatens to unravel its social and political cohesion.