OPINION

German warnings

The statement by Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber that Turkey cannot be integrated «into European culture» nor become a full member of the European Union echoes most public opinion on the continent. In fact, his view serves European and likely also Turkish interests – although that’s up to the Ankara establishment to decide. Turkey’s European course was arguably decided on October 2004 and the process is irreversible, if long. But governments can only ignore their publics up to a point – particularly when the economy is in bad shape. Faced with high unemployment and shrinking welfare states, European leaders have every reason to reconsider EU enlargement to include countries with big populations and major structural problems like Turkey. This cultural chasm was deliberately downplayed so the EU could avoid criticism of making decisions on racial grounds. But political correctness has its limits. Politicians must take people’s concerns into account. The truth is that even nation states with long traditions of cultural coexistence with the Muslim element, such as France, are having trouble, while few will be swayed by the argument that Turkey is a secular state. Successive Greek governments have decided that further EU expansion is in the national interest, just because they feel powerless to counter the pressure from the Turkish establishment. So far there has been no sign of a Turkish shift on Cyprus and the Aegean, nor are we likely to witness one in the foreseeable future. Today Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis meets Condoleezza Rice and she will most likely rehash talk about our full support for incorporating this Muslim nation into the EU, provided that Ankara meets certain conditions. But that means Turkey would have to remove the glue keeping it together. Greeks probably tend to believe Turkey is run by fools.