This week, the European Union did something remarkable. It chose to become an all-European Commonwealth, not the part-European superstate of Tory nightmares. Actually, the main objective of the opening –bitterly contested– of negotiations with Turkey is not to ensure that Turkey becomes a member of the European Union, which it may or may not do 10 or 15 years hence. The main effect is to set the front line of enlargement so far to the south-east that it ensures the rest of Europe will come into the EU - and probably before Turkey.
Historical irony is obvious. Turkey, which in its earlier, Ottoman form occupied much of the Balkans, and therefore cut them off from what was then the Christian club of Europe, is now the European door-opener for its former colonies. When those Balkan countries are in, they will immediately start agitating for their neighbours to join them, just as Poland is now looking for a promise to Ukraine. No matter if those neighbours are former enemies, with bitter memories of fierce wars and ethnic cleansing. The mysterious alchemy of enlargement is that it turns former enemies into advocates. Germany was the great promoter of Polish membership, and Greece remains one of the strongest supporters of Turkish membership.
The result is that, whether or not Turkey achieves membership over the next decade, by 2015 the European Union will cover most of what has historically been considered to constitute the territory of “Europe”. And it will have some 32 to 37 member states -for Switzerland, Norway and Iceland may eventually choose to come in, too. The frontline cases will then be Turkey and Ukraine, while Russia will have a special relationship with the European Union.

Le Monde (France)
The Guardian (United Kingdom)

How the dreaded superstate became a commonwealth″, by Timothy Garton Ash, The Guardian, October 6, 2005.
Un grand merci à la Turquie″, by Timothy Garton Ash, Le Monde, October 17, 2005.