Monday, 6 April 2009

America, integrate thyself

Turkish membership of the EU would be good for Turkey, good for the EU and good for stability in a swathe of fragile countries to Turkey's south-east. US President Barack Obama's call to grant the country admission to the political bloc ahead of his trip there in the coming days is thus to be welcomed, even if - despite a week of considerable personal diplomatic successes - expecting his words to inspire a sceptical Europe is optimistic lunacy. Yet of all the issues Mr Obama has addressed this week, pushing for the contentious accession and integration of a populous country on the fringes of a trade bloc is the one where he speaks with the greatest hypocrisy.

As a candidate last year, Mr Obama did his best to sound hostile to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a far loser pact than that of the modern EU. As President, Mr Obama has overseen a sharp deterioration in trade relations between the America and its immediate southern neighbour, abandoning for instance a programme to allow Mexican trucks to use US roads. Yet the case for stronger integration between the two countries is arguably far stronger than for Turkish integration into the EU, with Mexico embroiled in serious drug related violence whose ultimate cause lies in demand within its northern neighbour and whose consequences might also spill north. It would be nice to hear Mr Obama make the case for North American integration as strongly as he makes it for European.