Leiden (AsiaNews) Frits Bolkestein, the EU single market commissioner and a former leader of the Dutch liberals, warns that Europe's Christian civilisation risks being overrun by Islam and the European Union is in danger of imploding in its current form if 70 million Turkish Muslims were allowed to join.
In a speech at Leiden University (Netherlands), Bolkestein said that Turkey's entry could undermine the fragile European system and end all hopes for the continent's integration.
Calling demography the 'mother of politics', he said that "while America had the youth and dynamism to remain the world's only superpower, and China was the rising economic power, Europe's destiny was to be 'Islamised'". Quoting American author Bernard Lewis, Bolkestein warned Europeans that in a few decades Europe could become an "extension of North Africa and the Middle East". He went further comparing the EU to the late Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which took so many different peoples on board in such a haphazard fashion that it eventually became ungovernable. Reactions to Bolkestein's speech were swift. A spokesperson for the European Commission stressed that Dutch commissioner "was speaking in a personal capacity".
The EU Commission is in the meantime putting the final touches to a report due early next month on Turkish accession. The EU enlargement commissioner, Gunther Verheugen, is determined to go ahead with a broadly positive verdict on Oct 6, concluding that Turkey has met the basic tests of a free market economy and pluralist democracy under the rule of law. The Turkish government has introduced some reforms over the past three years that meet EU requirements in terms of democracy and pluralism. The death penalty has for example been abolished and the Kurdish language has been recognised. More recently though women's groups in both Europe and Turkey have protested against Ankara's decision to adopt a law outlawing adultery. "This reactionary law is against women", women's rights activists said.
Bolkestein's views are on the same wavelength as Card Joseph Ratzinger's, who, commenting on Ankara's application, said in a recent interview with French newspaper Le Figaro, that "Europe is a cultural and not a geographical continent. Its culture gives it a common identity. In this sense, Turkey always represented another continent throughout history, in permanent contrast with Europe". It would be wrong, Ratzinger said, to equate the two sides for mere commercial interests. "It would be a loss to subsume culture under the economy." Instead, he urged Turkey to take the leadership of the Muslim world in a dialogue with the West.
"Although a secular state, Turkey is still rooted in Islam. As such she could spearhead a cultural continent with its Arab neighbours and thus become the main actor of a culture with its own identity but with whom others can share common humanist values. This idea does not oppose close and friendly association and collaboration with Europe; instead, it could foster a common front against all forms of fundamentalism." (LF)