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January 15, 2009

Greece riots, Turkey suffers

By Spear's

Greece’s neighbour is likely to be the victim of prejudice against further EU expansion.

That the death of a young man at the hands of two police officers who have been charged with murder should have prompted weeks of civil unrest seems extraordinary to other members of the European Union.

The volatility of the Balkan temperament has long been a mystery and an irritant to northern Europeans, and the suspicion is that the rioting is a manifestation of some other grievance, but the absence of any obvious motives encourages the view that the prosperity associated with membership of the EU is not necessarily a guarantee of stability.

The irony here is that it is Greece’s eastern neighbour that is likely to be the real victim of northern prejudice against further expansion of the EU.

Much of Turkey’s political leadership is resigned to the country’s exclusion from EU membership, but the ostensible reason has been the Community’s reluctance to embrace the problems of Cyprus, Kurdistan and the implications of maintaining a common border with Iraq.

Lurking just beneath the surface is a strong resistance to the concept of allowing a country that is more Near Eastern than European, to join the other twenty-seven members.

Any visitor to Istanbul, with its many mosques and the regular calls to prayer, cannot fail to notice that although this is a secular administration, the population is emphatically Muslim.

Disorder on the streets of Athens might be perceived as a manageable, temporary problem, whereas Turkey, entirely unconnected with the trouble, is regarded as a potential powder-keg of strife.

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The difference, of course, is the potential for religious unrest, a variety that Europe is unwilling to contemplate.

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