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A good example of this is the recent enlargement of the EU which was a major change, and therefore should have been put to popular vote. However the inclusion of the 10 Eastern European states after the collapse of the Iron Curtain was generally quite popular (less so the recent inclusion of Romania/Bulgaria) and so the lack of direct consultation was less of a political problem.
It would still have been preferable had it been put to the popular vote because:
It certain circles you can't raise ethnic issues in the context of identity without being labelled a racist, or religious issues without being labelled a bigot. I thought there might have been a touch of that here. Both are critical to the issue of identity and the boundaries which people may legitimately want to set for their polity.
Politics is also about sentiment or feeling -it is not purely an economic or technocratic issue and people have to feel and want to be part of something. The enlargement to 27 was quite a shock to that system and will take quite some time to be fully absorbed. The EU wasn't structurally ready for it and I doubt its people are ready for a further expansion just yet. There is only so much "otherness" that people can take in and accept within a short period of time.
Turkey is unfortunate that its application comes so soon after the ill-digested expansion eastward and before structural reform has been achieved. It sheer size and location and religious and ethnic differences compound that problem - particularly in the xenophobic atmosphere created by the "War on Terror".
I do not personally have a problem with Turkey's accession so long as it is preceded by structural reform and democratic consultation - neither of which seem to be on the agenda in any serious way at the moment. In fact, I would positively welcome and campaign for Turkey's inclusion if I felt that Turkey's people, too, genuinely wanted to embrace and integrate with multiculturalism, secularism, and other "enlightenment" values discussed here earlier.
However, on my reading, there is a great deal of tension between the secularist army and Islamic elements in Turkish civil society who want an Islamic state. This needs to be resolved before accession because we do not want to import any more of those tensions into western Europe.
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