A bill proposed in Turkey that would have made adultery a punishable offense was retracted shortly after its introduction.  Hailed as a decisive move by the European Commission, this resulted in a proposal to open negotiations on the entrance of Ankara into the European Union.

This attitude befits the ideology of the fundamental rights of the European citizen.  All important economic and political efforts serve the well-being of the individual, his autonomy and emancipation, within a durable and peaceful society.  The European Union must guarantee a lasting peace and personal development.  On these aims, Europe is unanimous.  Peace and autonomy can only prosper and flourish within a formal and plural democracy.  Indeed, only democracy guarantees the complete sovereignty of the people and the citizen.  Only democracy gives the same weight to each voice or conviction and guarantees that the majority in the ballot box is the only supreme authority.

During recent decades, this principle not only has become irreversible but seems to be considered a major achievement in the entire Western world.  It is hailed as the final victory of civilization and the only guarantee of a real political order.  Those who believe this ignore the fact that democracy is only one form of government among others and is by no means the universal remedy for all political and economic problems.  History, as well as daily events, proves that this system, like all others, is not without its limitations.

Modern democracy tends to deteriorate into what is regarded as an unsurpassed and exclusively sanctifying ideology.  The consensus in politics, economics, philosophy, and even theology considers this form of government to be the final and definitive horizon of our culture.  Such narrow thinking creates an acute problem: With 50 percent plus one, you can always have the last word.  This is democracy without any restraint, the path toward a totalitarian regime.

We have reached that point already in Europe.  All those who disagree with the majority become second-class citizens.  Everywhere in Europe, in opposition to the commonwealth’s natural sentiments about right and wrong, laws are made and modified.  Every European member-state has to conform to the imposed model, and all new candidates, including Turkey, are judged against this notion of human rights.

The Turkish adultery law may have been proposed to the parliament in Ankara in order to reduce private vendettas.  In fact, such a law existed up to 1982.  In 1996, a new proposition in that field was rejected by the Turkish high court.  On the other hand, the latest proposal could have been a trial balloon designed to test European resistance.  This seems more likely, considering the Pavlovian reaction of the European Commission against something it considers a violation of human rights.  European indignation, the withdrawal of the Turkish proposal, and the subsequent relief expressed by the European Commission could have far-reaching political consequences.

Turkey has been applying for E.U. membership for several years.  Her candidacy gained momentum when an Islamic government took power in 2002.  The new administration looks extremely intelligent, and its reactions are skillful and thoughtful.  The military influence in Turkey, though, remains decisive.  The army watches over the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the nation, which includes a French-style state that is neutral in matters of religion.  The army comprises 800,000 soldiers, more than those of all other Western European countries together.  At first, Prime Minister Erdogan’s government looked to be in conflict with the army’s general staff.  Nevertheless, a strange dialectic between military men and government has developed.  A previous Islamic government soon clashed with the army, which put an end to the experiment.  Today, the situation is more complex.  Both sides desire E.U. membership for Turkey.

The Soviets often courted Western goodwill by making their opponents believe in a conflict between hawks and doves within the Kremlin.  Time and again, the West capitulated, in order to avoid a coup by the hawks or extremists.  Nowadays, Putin has to be courted, because he supposedly is in favor of the West and free markets.

The same tactics could be used by Turkey.  The Western countries think they must support the government in Ankara in order to protect human rights, advance their own model of democracy, and avoid a military coup.  Much depends on it, because a country as strategic as Turkey may have no choice but to turn to Asia, after a refusal by the European Union.

Approaches made by Europe have also indicated a clear diplomatic and political commitment.  The effort to reunite Cyprus is one example.  Under the authority of U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan and with the intense cooperation of British diplomacy, a reunification plan for the island was proposed.  Among other provisions, the proposal provided for the presence of Greek and Turkish armed forces until 2018.  The treaty stipulates that this presence could be withdrawn earlier if Turkey joined the European Union before that date.  If the island reunited, the new Cyprus as a whole, Greeks and Turks together, would enter the European Union.  This would have meant that Turkish members would already have had a seat in the European Parliament and that Turkish would have become one of the official languages of the European community.  However, the referendum in May 2004 decided differently.  The Greek part of Cyprus rejected the proposal, while the Turks voted overwhelmingly in favor of it.  In Brussels, disappointment and indignation were expressed.

The preamble to the European constitution is another element of the European overture toward Ankara.  Any reference to the irreplaceable role of Christianity in the history of Europe has been excluded.  The essence of Europe has been altered by the negation of an historically irrevocable fact.  It looks now as if the Continent has no past and can, pushed forward by enlightenment and reason, proceed in whatever direction it wishes.  The Turkish minister of foreign affairs quite rightly concluded that no further obstacles remained to his country’s entry into the European Union.

The start of negotiations with Ankara constitutes for the European Union a gigantic precedent with an enormous geopolitical impact.  Retiring president Prodi already spilled the beans by declaring that this would mean that other, smaller Islamic states could join later.  The fact that Europe has no clear political structure or outline, and that no one can predict what the entry of these Islamic countries would signify, has not kept the president from making such comments.

Europe is provided with an impenetrable and fast-growing bureaucracy, less and less controlled by the council of governments.  As for the European Parliament, it lacks any real control, with its 25 member-states and an equal number of languages.  Nobody seems to be bothered by this, as the commission concerns itself with an increasing number of delicate issues, including immigration policy.  Our countries therefore lose their effective control over crucial issues, having been taken over by “this thing,” as General De Gaulle called the United Nations.

The Turkish economy is particularly feeble, and the cost of Turkey’s entry will be enormous.  Nobody knows how this will be financed.  Turkey has a young and rapidly growing population.  By her natural growth, she will soon surpass Germany, which now has 82.5 million inhabitants but is rapidly growing older.  According to current trends, Turkey will have 82 million inhabitants by 2015.  She also has important groups of immigrants in all European countries, especially in Germany.  By all means, she would become the biggest nation of the European Union.

The Ottoman Empire has an impressive imperial history, penetrated and inspired by Islam.  One can say, as Jacques Chirac did, that Islam is part of European history, provided one adds that it has been a thousand-year history of war and conquests.

Indeed, the empire of the sultans conquered a large part of Southeastern Europe shortly after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.  From 1526 on, Hungary was dominated by the Sublime Porte for more than 150 years.  Only after its defeat in 1683 at the gates of Vienna did the empire start to retreat from Europe.  During World War I, Turkey was an ally of Germany.  At Versailles, her decline was sealed.  Unexpectedly, Kemal Ataturk created the new Turkey.  Wanting a secular state, he curtailed Islam.  Nevertheless, the great tradition of almost five centuries remains alive and provides the nation with a geopolitical vision—for instance, Ankara still believes that all Turkish-speaking nations belonging to the former Soviet Union up to the borders of China remain in their zone of influence.  At the same time, she remains interested in Europe, having helped to found Bosnia, the first Muslim state in Europe, which is likely to be followed soon by Greater Albania (Albania and Kosovo).

If Ankara joins the European Union, this will mean a staggering shift of boundaries.  The Turkish claims will expand Europe’s interests up to China’s borders, while Iran, Iraq, and Syria will become neighbors.

Furthermore, pending the negotiations, Muslim immigrations into Europe will increase.  While levels are already significant, they will only grow if Turkey enters the European Union.  And the official recognition of the Islamic religion and culture, and especially of the Turkish language, will encourage these Muslims not to assimilate but to preserve their Islamic identity.

The entry is scheduled for 2018.  Certainly, Turkey has been warned that, if she does not act in a “democratically correct” way, negotiations can be suspended, but this looks more like an extremely dangerous illusion.  (Who, by the way, will risk the suspension of negotiations, which would amount to a declaration of war with Ankara?)  Meanwhile, Europe will enter more and more into a demographic winter, as a result of her own carelessness.  This will reduce our possibilities of reacting much more than we realize now.  In the meantime, the unpredictable adventure of the entry of almost all Eastern European countries, beginning with Rumania and Bulgaria in 2007, will unfold.  This will have to happen alongside continuing negotiations with Turkey.

Pressure from the United States can play a role in these negotiations.  The decision has to be made by the countries of Europe, however, not by Washington.  Unfortunately, we lack a geopolitical vision as well as historic memory.  We are left with a faint-hearted series of “irreversible” democratic values, with which we are trying not only to lead history but to terminate it.  Reality, however, does not conform to our comfortable nihilism.

Turkey, on the other hand, is a nation still aware of the nature of politics.  She does not, however, belong to Europe.  This has nothing to do with racism or xenophobia but with a sound political understanding and an obvious geopolitical vision.  Our cultures, traditions, and histories are not merely different; they are incompatible.  This should not prevent good relations with Ankara, however: We have many common interests.  But a merger with Europe can only bring chaos and provoke a sharp struggle for power.