Henri Barkey - The European Union has never been about borders or geographical limits. Through each expansion cycle, the European Union enlarged the circle of stability and prosperity. The EU's founders always conceived of Europe as a community of solidarity and common destiny, not just a common market.
Turkey, it is true, occupies only a sliver of European territory. At first glance, it is also a country that does not share the old continent's cultural roots. Yet, from the Ottoman times onward it has historically been part of the European international system. Moreover, the Ottoman Empire and the modern Turkish state have both oriented themselves towards Europe.
The Pope has changed his mind about Turkey's accession to Europe and he is right in doing so. If Europe is a community of values, it ought not reject a prospective member who not only aspires to share in this quest but also has the weight of history behind it.
Where Europe is right is in insisting that Turkey fully adheres to all of its criteria for membership. There can be no shortcuts to membership and Turkey is saddled with numerous problems, including one of minorities, that are extremely hard to tackle and will require time and patience.
The Turkish accession process will be long, perhaps as long as twenty years. It is then that Europe will have to make the decision as to whether it should admit Turkey and not now. Twenty years from now Turkey will be a very different society. Europe has to give Turkey a chance to show that it can live up to these ideals.
Henri J. Barkey is the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Professor in International Relations and International Relations Department Chair at Lehigh University. He served as a member of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff (1998-2000) working primarily on issues related to the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean and intelligence.
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