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Europe’s Three Eastern Questions

WASHINGTON, DC Today, the European project is shaking. Of course, I am confident that the eurozone’s ongoing sovereign-debt crisis will be overcome, and that a more integrated and effective Europe will emerge. But, to get to that improved Europe, not only must the sovereign debt crisis be resolved; relations with three major countries to Europe’s east – Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine – will need to be put on more secure footing.

I was of the generation in my country that lived through the transition from dictatorship to democracy four decades ago. For us, the European Union was a dream. Indeed, we used to quote Ortega y Gasset: “If Spain is the problem, Europe is the solution.”

I continue to believe, very deeply, that Europe is the solution, particularly for societies that need to deepen – if not establish – a democratic tradition. Closer relations between Europe and Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine can deliver for them many of the same benefits that we in Spain always associated with Europe.

Turkey is, of course, already a candidate for EU membership, but accession negotiations are moving very slowly, which is strategically unwise, because Turkey’s great authority in the wider Middle East is vitally important to Europe (and probably greater than its own). From Syria to all of the Arab Spring countries, Turkey’s influence is highly significant, and further cooperation with the EU can only prove beneficial.