The expansion of the EU to the lands of the Warsaw Pact did not require much political defence or illustration. The countries concerned were all indisputably European, however the term was defined, and all had famously suffered under Communism. To bring them into the Union was not just to heal an ancient division of the continent, anchoring them in a common liberal-democratic capitalism, but to compensate the East for its misfortunes after 1945, relieving the West of a bad conscience at the difference in fates between them. They would also, of course, constitute a strategic glacis against any resurgence of Russia, and offer a nearby pool of cheap labour, although this received less public emphasis. The uncontentious logic here is not, on face of it, immediately transferable to Turkey. The country has long been a market economy, held parliamentary elections, constituted a pillar of Nato, and is now situated further from Russia than ever in the past. It would look as if only the last of the motives in Eastern Europe, the economic objective, applies – not unimportant, certainly, but incapable of explaining the priority Turkey’s entry into the EU has acquired in Brussels.
Yet a kind of symmetry with the case for Eastern Europe can be discerned in the principal reasons advanced for Turkish membership in Western capitals. The fall of the Soviet Union may have removed the menace of Communism, but there is now – it is widely believed – a successor danger in Islamism. Rampant in the authoritarian societies of the Middle East, it threatens to stretch into immigrant communities within Western Europe itself. What better prophylactic against it than to embrace a staunch Muslim democracy within the EU, functioning as both beacon of a liberal order to a region in desperate need of a more enlightened political model and sentinel against every kind of terrorism and extremism?