28 November 2009
THE END OF EUROPE
By: Nicholas Newman
Where does Europe end - is a question of growing concern to
many Europeans, especially with the entry of Bulgaria and
Rumania, and the prospect of Turkey’s entry, in 2012.
This vital political question was the topic under discussion at
a recent European Studies Centre seminar at Oxford University,
led by Graham Avery (Honorary Director General, European
Commission) and Baskin Oran (University of Ankara).
How to define Europe is problematic, both Graham and Baskin
agreed. It depends on which set of criteria is preferred.
Amongst the sets of criteria most often used are by:
Having contiguous borders with other European states.
Common cultural heritage.
Current and future levels of economic, social and political
Taking these criteria into account, let’s look at some
Take geography for instance, a country like Russia some would
argue is both a European and Asiatic state, since it lies on
However, Georgia, which hopes, someday, to join the EU, shares
at present no contiguous borders with any EU state.
As for history, ‘Turkey has a good claim being both a former
imperial province of the Roman and Byzantine Empires, unlike
modern day Poland,’ Baskin Oran noted.
Then there is the matter of religion, if the condition that a
country must be a predominantly Christian country. Then,
Turkey’s Moslem heritage means it fails to meet the grade.
Looking at potential states that share a similar cultural
heritage, then perhaps New Zealand, Australia and Canada should
However, in terms of current and future prospects of economic,
social and political development, then both Switzerland and
Norway would be welcomed with open arms. ‘In fact, it would be
the quickest accession process, in the EU’s history,’ Graham
Then, lastly, there is the political imperative, as Europe’s
energy security concerns grow in importance, with it
increasingly dependent on imported energy. Possibly, despite
Europe’s many valid misgivings, Brussels may well have to in
the future change its mind and welcome countries like Turkey
into the EU, for the sake of energy security.
Just as there are disagreements as to what defines Europe there
are, in fact, different types of Europe in operation today,
Schengen Area (an agreement that abolished frontier controls
between member states and the establishment of a common
Euro Zone Area (is made up of EU states that share the € as a
European Union (a supranational economic and political body,
made up of currently 25, soon to be 27 European states, based
European Free Trade Area (an economic trading area made up of
Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland).
European Economic Area (a common customs union and free trade
area made up of EU and EFTA member states).
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (a mutual defence pact made
up of European and North American nations, based in
Even when countries fulfil many of the criteria, at present
they are deemed by the Commission not to be ready to start the
long accession process to entry.
Graham commented. ‘Take the Balkan problem children of Bosnia,
Kosovo and Albania, they have much to put right, before they
can apply. It will be a while before they will be allowed to
start the accession process, though, Croatia, once it sorts out
a few political problems, should be able to start the joining
process in a few years.’ As for Russia, it will be at least a
decade before Russia is likely to consider seriously joining.
Then, it will be for geo-political concerns, caused by a
desperate decline in its population and the need to improve its
standing against the rising power of China.
So why are European leaders like Tony Blair, Angela Merkel so
in favour of further EU enlargement. Putting it simply, they
see enlargement as acting as a catalyst for both economic and
political reform that Brussels needs to make to ensure future
prosperity and stability of the continent.
Say, is the EU ready for further enlargement, given the
referendums in both France and Holland defeated the
implementation of the new European Constitutional document.
Though it is clear, that this put various reforms of the EU
behind schedule, nevertheless, it has not stopped many of the
necessary measures being moved forward. In fact, many now argue
the document was not necessary to meet the larger reform aims
of the EU.
So, after considering the criteria, what does make a European
state? This is clearly a complicated, perhaps a personal