Where does Europe end?

Turkey is not Europe but Asia, said Nicolas Sarkozy during the televised debate with his Socialist rival Segolene Royal. In other words, Asia Minor – birthplace of the third century Christian saint after whom the presidential candidate was named – is not Europe. Neither is the land where the pre-Socratic thinkers laid the foundations of European philosophy. Nor is the successor state to the Ottoman Empire that the French and British pitted against Czarist Russia. The difficulty in measuring the Europeanness of Asia Minor through the centuries highlights the numerous factors that come into play when attempting to answer the question: What are the boundaries of Europe? Who is and who is not European? If Europa, daughter of king Phoenix and Telephassa, were alive today, she too would not be considered European. The prevailing notion of Europe and European identity is based mainly on political criteria that also accommodate important – albeit subordinate – geographical, religious, cultural and historical parameters. So there is de Gaulle’s vision of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, the Crusaders’ idea of a Catholic Europe, the Christian Europe of the Holy Alliance, Hitler’s New Europe, the New Europe of the enlargement-planners in Brussels. Likewise there is Rumsfeld’s old Europe and the Charlemagne-inspired Europe of Jean Baptiste Duroselle. Europe’s borders, particularly to the east, were never clear. Geography may provide some answers but historical, cultural and anthropological factors complicate matters. The political answer to the limits and identity of Europe is the most simplistic one but it also the most powerful. And when the political objectives of the stronger nations do not entail some reinterpretation out of necessity, then there are exceptions and special relationships like the potential one between Turkey and an identity-less Union.