The truth will out

Earlier today I was at a presentation of a report on Turkey’s prospects for EU membership. All pretty much as you would expect; and then someone asked one of the authors of the report, a former French Prime Minister, why he felt that Turkey was no threat to the European project. And he replied, more or less:

“I was born in 1930. I became a European federalist at the age of 17. I wanted to build a Carolingian European state, able to challenge the Americans as a real superpower. But this all changed once we let in the British, and the dream was killed off by the Maastricht Treaty. So, since Europe doesn’t have the will to be anything more than a rather well developed rules-based market economy, why not let Turkey in? It does them good and it doesn’t do us any further harm. And people who say that letting Turkey in is dangerous to the Euro-federalist project are lying. Turkey would indeed be dangerous to that project if it was still alive. But it is dead.”

Two extraordinary things about the spech. First of all, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone before publicly recant federalism in quite such graphic terms in public in front of a Brussels audience. And secondly, I imagine that even as recently as ten years ago a former French Prime Minister would have naturally made his remarks in French. (The report was published in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Turkish.)

The Finnish chairman of the report committee, and its Austrian rapporteur, shuffled their feet in some embarrassment. Both had played important roles in bringing their respective countries into the EU; and it’s easy to forget that that was less than ten years ago.

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