EU to Ask, What Is Europe?

From the May 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Identifying Europe on a map might not be too difficult for anyone with a high school education. But try to identify where Europe ends, what its borders are, and you need an international summit.

Looming over a two-day summit of European Union leaders at the end of March in Brussels, Belgium, was the question of how big the EU can be allowed to get and who can join.

With the questions still looming, foreign ministers have scheduled an informal summit for May to assess “where Europe’s future borders lie,” according to the Netherlands’ Ben Bot (Associated Press, March 24). Bot told reporters, “One of the many questions Europeans ask is, ‘Are there no borders to the EU that should be fixed?’”

A German politician, claiming to speak for public sentiment across the Continent, stated just before last week’s conference that governments “must make clear where the borders of Europe are.” The politician is Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber, leader of the sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, whose career analysts pronounced dead when he rejected a seat in Merkel’s cabinet.

His comments on a radio program just before the summit sparked discussion on one of the most fundamental issues facing the EU: What is Europe?

“At talks before the opening of the EU summit … Stoiber called on EU leaders and foreign ministers to heed public opinion, which he said was against expansion to Turkey. The leading German conservative said future enlargement ‘had to be accepted by the citizens’” (China Daily, March 24).

For a so-called political has-been, Stoiber is getting quite a lot of press—perhaps because he is speaking for public opinion.

He said that the EU, before accepting any more nations, should not just consider whether a nation is living up to the standards set by the EU but also whether the EU “has the capacity” in the first place to accept the nation.

Stoiber singled out Turkey for which, he has always believed (as does Germany’s chancellor), the EU does not have the “absorption capacity” to accept as a member. That “capacity” has to do largely with religious differences. Does the EU have the “capacity” to accept a Muslim nation—even a moderate one with a relatively secular government—as part of Europe?

Until now, politicians have tried to politely push aside the notion of Turkish membership in the EU using politically correct rationale: Turkey’s population is too big, it has structural problems, and so on. The “cultural chasm was deliberately downplayed so the EU could avoid criticism of making decisions on racial grounds,” writes Greek reporter Costas Iordanidis (Kathimerini, March 23). “But political correctness has its limits. Politicians must take people’s concerns into account.”

It appears Stoiber has no qualms about shelving political correctness when it comes to sensitive cultural issues like EU enlargement and immigration. And what is becoming increasingly apparent is, his views on enlargement are resonating with EU leaders.

The European Parliament is determined to define the bloc’s “absorption capacity” by the end of the year. According to a March 17 resolution, members of the European Parliament say that “defining the nature” of the EU “is fundamental to understanding the concept of absorption capacity” (EurActiv.com, March 22).

Europe has quite an issue on its hands—the one issue that strikes at the heart of what it is. Watch these discussions over the coming months, prompted by Turkish desire to join the Union.

One thing is for sure: Turkey will never be part of a united Europe. On that matter, Stoiber is right. Bible prophecy indicates that Europe will be united by a religious force, as a resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. It will be a Roman Catholic union in which Turkey will have no place.