The European Union closed out the year with two historic events. One received widespread international media coverage, the other, almost complete disregard. The one is controversial in Europe and has the enthusiastic support of the world's only superpower. The second is seen as a source of pride in the Old World, but for the same exact reason provokes suspicion and concern on the other side of the Atlantic.
On December 17, the EU took a decision to initiate talks on the addition of Turkey to its ranks. Advocates of the move offered every possible argument: Geographically, and particularly historically, Turkey is part of Europe; its inclusion in the EU would weaken the nationalist and fundamentalist currents and would prevent any possibility of "Turkish Iranization"; it would lead to the closing of the economic gap between Ankara and the others countries of Europe, a reduction in the army's interference in the running of the state, improvement of the human rights situation and advancement of a solution to the Cyprus problem.
"A European Turkey is the real answer to Bin Laden and Huntington's clash of civilizations," it has been argued. It would bridge East and West, the Islamic world and the secular-liberal values of the West. Furthermore, it would help strengthen the EU in the face of the other powers - the U.S. and China - and make it possible to end the imbalance between Europe's economic strength and political weakness in the international arena.
The inclusion of Turkey would add a strong army to the EU, enhance its stature in Central Asia, the Balkans and the Caucasus, and most of all, deepen its geostrategic penetration in the Middle East and contribute to democratization, peace and stability throughout the region.
Opponents of the move have answers to each one of these arguments, although their main motive may be one that remains unexpressed in the public debate, one that is concealed by the fact that Britain was most prominent among the European states supporting Turkey's inclusion. It also explains the prodigious efforts invested by the U.S. in front of and behind the scenes to advance this same objective.
In actual fact, the U.S. and Britain (and also Israel, perhaps) support Turkey's inclusion mainly for the same reason that figures such as Valery Giscard d'Estaing, Helmut Kohl and Frits Bolkestein are opposed to it. All of these "condescending" and "racist" Europeans have dared to defy the politically correct European bon ton due to their assessment that Turkey's addition to the EU might undermine the foundations of the Union and shatter the dream of continental federalization that was concocted by the founding fathers of the EU.
The differences of perspective with regard to the second event, which was noticed by very few people, ought to be seen in the same light: On December 2, the EU received military command in Bosnia from NATO. The Stabilization Forces (SFOR) handed over the reins to EUFOR - NATO (or basically the U.S.) out, Europe in.
Brussels is seeing it as "a historic correction." Nine years after the end of the most destructive war Europe has known since World War II, the EU is taking on the largest and most important independent military mission in its history. More than 200,000 people were killed in the three years of the war in Bosnia, hundreds of thousands were uprooted from their homes, and an impotent Europe watched it all unfold. Now it faces a critical test of its ability to play the role of a real international player. This is also a test of the common European defense policy - a decisive stage on the path to the realization of the vision of federation.
Europe will try to prove that it is not only a synonym for checkbooks, international aid and moralizing. The 7,000 EUFOR soldiers will be asked to perform the missions that NATO was unable to complete - gain control of weapons dumps, merge the forces of the Bosnian factions into a united army and, primarily, capture those suspected of war crimes, including two former Serbian leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
At first glance, the Americans should have been pleased with this development, which will enable them to assign more resources to their missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, whereas in the past, the U.S. related to the European integration process as one of the more important developments of the post-war era, it now regards it as a suspicious and perhaps even dangerous phenomenon.
While the Clinton administration encouraged Europe to develop its military capabilities and widen its involvement in conflicts in its own backyard, Bush prefers to thwart any initiative liable to affect adversely his hegemonic global agenda. This is evidently the reason that the U.S. repeatedly chose to delay the exchange of command in Bosnia, and that even after the fact, its suspicions did not fade: The Americans decided to leave about 250 military personnel and diplomats in Sarajevo and Tuzla for the purpose of carrying out "special operations" and supervising "suspicious movements" by the Europeans.
The struggles over Turkey and Bosnia indicate that the issue of the EU's deeper integration is no longer a merely internal European matter, but has become part of the global wrestling match; after all, successful "peacekeeping" in Bosnia may lead to similar European missions in the future - Kosovo, for example.
And someone is liable to ask if the territories might not be a feasible destination as well.
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