Monday, April 03, 2006

The Borders of Europe

It has become increasingly popular to ask for the European Union to start to define the borders of Europe.

Sounds somewhat strange, but it's all part of the efforts underway to try to limit the future enlargement of the Union.

Now it was French party leader Nicolas Sarkozy who voiced these thoughts at the EPP Congress in Rome:

"We have to ask: should Europe have borders? And the answer is yes, it should. A Europe without borders will become a subset of the United Nations."

Of course Europe has borders. It will never become the United Nations - the notion is just silly.

Morocco in 1987 applied for membership in the then European Community, but found its letter of application coming back with the information that Morocco is not in Europe. The Mediterranean is the boundary towards the South.

To the West the situation is also fairly straighforward.

Greenland is America and comes under the sovereignity of Denmark, but there is a special agreement that says that although Greenland is part of Denmark it is not part of the European Union. Iceland is clearly Europe.

The French overseas territories in Latin America - there are such! - are however seen as fully part of France and accordingly part of the European Union. In the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are part of the European Union by being a part of Portugal.

The North can't be much of a problem either.

Norway? Well, some of them might not see it that way, but even they are undoubtedly Europeans.

It's obviously the East that is the problem.

Well, Turkey has been defined as part of Europe at the least since the setting up of the Council of Europe immediately after World War II, and the fact that a unanimous decision has been taken by the 25 member countries to open accession negotiations with Turkey should also close the debate on that one.

Cyprus is an island more or less off the coast of Lebanon. The closest other capital to Nicosia is Beiruth. And also Damascus, Jerusalem, Amman and Cairo are geographically closer to Nicosia than Athens is.

But it is a member of the European Union. So, it's European as well.


Well, it's territory lies well within all classical definitions of Europe, and for those seeing that as important it's a country with strong Christian roots. Those however being Orthodox - same as Greece and Cyprus.

So, on which grounds could Ukraine be classified as not being a European country? It's difficult to see.

And then there is Moldava in between Romania and Ukraine. Much the same applies there.

Russia and Belarus are somewhat special cases. I would argue that they are both European, but that the probability of either of them seriously contemplating membership of the European Union is virtually nil.

But to define Russia as not European - Asian? - would be difficult indeed. Different? Yes. Non-European? No.

That really takes us down to Caucasus, and here I agree that it becomes somewhat tricky. The classical boundary of Europe was seen as running along the Caucasus mountain ridge, and Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are clearly beyond this.

This we can debate for a long time.

But is this really a relevant debate? To try to bloc the states of Transcaucasus from ever even contemplating membership in the European Union?

Those asking for the debate about the boundaries of Europe arenĀ“t probably aiming at this.

But instead of asking the questions they should be ready to try to start providing the answers.

It will not be easy.

And hardly politically productive.