More EU enlargement: a modest proposal
Those who fervently support Turkey’s eventual admission to the European Union point to the major benefits for Turkey of being required to improve its civil rights performance and democratic credentials in order to qualify for EU membership. It’s also argued that Turkish membership will demonstrate to the world the EU’s inclusive and non-discriminatory character: the admission of a country with an almost wholly Muslim population of some 80 million by the time of its admission, making it the biggest or second biggest country in the EU, will certainly represent pretty convincing evidence that the EU is not, or is no longer, a neo-Christian conspiracy against Islam, as Turkey’s exclusion might just conceivably suggest.
These weighty arguments for Turkish membership surely prompt the question whether similar benefits might be obtained by inviting in one or two other countries, not hitherto regarded as likely candidates. The most obvious must be Iraq. If it is argued that Iraq is not in Europe, that’s easily answered: nor is most of Turkey. The United States, Britain and others have expended considerable blood and treasure in the effort to bring the benefits of democracy to Iraq, with so far somewhat limited success: how better to reinforce the momentum of democratic reform and the institution of civil rights in Iraq than to hold out the offer of EU membership once these changes have been made? True, it might not work: perhaps the obstacles to a democratic régime in fractured, war-torn, occupied Iraq are too great for even the lure of a seat at the EU table to overcome.
But an EU offer seems, on the face of it, a more plausible proposition than the attempt to force democracy on Iraq at the point of a rocket-launcher, even if the rocket launcher is backed up by several thousand uniformed and heavily armed American and British (and some other) troops, with helicopter gunships and heavy bombers overhead to add to the persuasiveness of the argument. What’s more, eventual Iraqi membership would bring yet more valuable diversity and colour to the EU, with further evidence of EU inclusiveness and its enlightened and outward-looking world-view. Conversely, what does the continued exclusion of Iraq from the undoubted blessings of EU membership say about the Union?
My second proposal for further EU expansion is less obvious, and perhaps more controversial: why not Swaziland? The country is a monarchy, a system familiar to many Europeans; indeed, its current King enjoyed the benefits of an English public school education, at the same school (coincidentally) as that once attended by the present writer, so His Majesty may be assumed to feel some affinity already with English (or at any rate English public school) ways, thus easing the adjustment to EU values. The virtual breakdown of the nuclear family structure in many EU countries, and the prevalence of multiple sexual relationships among large groups in EU society, will also strike a familiar chord with many Swazis, whose head of state chooses at least one new and additional wife each year in a colourful ceremony that for all I know may well have its origins in the attempt to replicate the State Opening of Parliament, the Coronation, the Miss World contest, or Big Brother. The requirement to meet the EU’s exacting standards of democracy and human rights would do Swaziland no end of good, and Swazi membership, once achieved, would certainly add to EU diversity at least as much as Iraq’s, if not quite as much as Turkey’s.
King Mswati III of Swaziland >
The clincher, it seems to me, is that for the EU to persist in its current obstinate exclusion of Swaziland is bound to lay the Union open to the charge of racial discrimination, a charge potentially even more damaging than the parallel accusation of EU Islamophobia arising from any reluctance to admit Turkey — or Iraq.
Come on, you chaps in the EU Commission: what about it? Peter?