The European Union's Battle for Turkey

When the plotters behind the recent suicide attacks in Istanbul launched their human bombs against Jewish synagogues and British office buildings, they had several audiences in mind. One audience--and potentially the most important--are the citizens of the European Union, which Turkey's political class is eager to join as soon as possible.

The battle over Turkish membership in the EU will be fought on many fronts: in the country itself, where the government is currently undertaking major reforms in order to qualify for candidate status; at the negotiating table once the European Council in December 2004 authorizes the Commission to enter into formal accession talks; and among the public within the existing member countries.

Of the three fronts, the latter will be the most demanding. Most EU citizens are uneasy today over the prospect of Turkish membership. Those responsible for the atrocities in Istanbul may have calculated that Islamic terrorism will increase that uneasiness further.

Traditionally, Europe's citizens have always accepted the new members that queued up to join the club as it went from the original group of six countries to the 25 that will form the EU in 2004. Once a purely West European community, the Union has pushed out its frontiers in all directions.