Where, Gordon Brewer demanded on Newsnight Scotland last night, will it all end? The baffled candidates for the European Parliament took a while to work out what he was talking about. Should Israel, Turkey or Ukraine be admitted to the EU? Most of them tried to deflect the query by saying these countries weren’t quite in Europe, but that misses the point. The European Union isn’t just about geography – it it was, it could hardly include Réunion (in the Indian Ocean) or Guadeloupe (in the Caribbean), both legally part of France. It’s about a system of legal relations, not about location.
When I was at school, Spain was fascist; Greece was ruled by a slightly deranged miltary junta who imagined they could hold back modern life at the borders; Hungary and Czechoslovakia had been invaded by Russian tanks; Portugal was an authoritarian dictatorship; East Germany was shooting people who tried to leave. Things change, and sometimes they change at a startling speed; the European Union has been a significant element in that change. Israel, Turkey and the Ukraine may fail currently to meet the basic criteria for EU membership – the acquis communautaire – but it’s perfectly possible to imagine scenarios where they might, and that in the not too distant future.