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A Pipeline to Trouble By: Gregory Gethard
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 09, 2009


So who won the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute?

Quite possibly it was Turkey, which now has a bargaining chip in its quest for ascension to the European Union. And this could mean a major transformation of the European Union.

This year’s annual Russia-Ukraine gas battle was the most vicious yet. Continental Europe receives about 1/5th of its natural gas supply from Russia. And about 80% of that gas flows through Ukraine. The two nations constantly battle over how much Ukraine will pay for gas it imports from Russia. But underlying the issue is Ukraine’s tilt towards the European Union and Moscow’s attempt to bring Kiev back under its thumb.

Russia, this year, shut off the gas flow through Ukraine, dropping natural gas supply dramatically just as the winter freeze fell across Europe. The European Union has largely looked the other way during the periodic Russia/Ukraine gas battles. But now, EU leaders are starting to question the reliability of Russian gas.

In order to decrease their dependence on an aggressive Russia, the European Union must turn its head towards other means to power its economy. And on the horizon is the Nabucco pipeline which would transport gas from Central Asia to Europe via Turkey.

Nabucco officials say that construction on the pipeline may start as soon as next year and could start to develop natural gas by 2013. The pipeline bring the EU over 30 billion cubic meters of gas a year, dramatically reducing Europe’s dependence on Russia for its energy needs.

But Europe’s energy concerns now place Turkey’s dream of joining the EU on the front burner. Ankara has long sought membership in the EU. However, Brussels has kept Turkey at bay due to worries over Turkey’s human rights record, their relations with EU-member Cyprus and other issues. But the Nabucco bargaining chip may finally convince European Union members to change their mind. Energy integration may be the first step of Turkey’s eventual merger with Europe.

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Turkey’s current GDP per capita ranks as 89th in the world, placing it right between Iran and Cuba. Typically, the EU’s wealthier nations’ GDP-per-capita are three times greater than Turkey’s.

One of the EU’s benefits is freedom of movement between member nations. And, naturally, people tend to move where they can see increases in their standard of living. Turkey’s population is estimated around 70,000,000 which would rank it second among all EU nations, only behind Germany. And, of course, Turkey’s population is almost universally Muslim.

It wouldn’t take too much of a leap to see what would happen if Turkey is granted EU membership. Turkish Muslims would flood Western European cities looking for work, higher wages and better educational opportunities. And, as a result, one can expect to see the Islamification of continental Europe.

One can expect to see more mosques popping up around Berlin, Paris and London. But, on top of that, Europe can expect to see other problems.

Germany has already faced these problems as it is home to over 2.5 million Turks. This population makes less money and is less educated than homegrown Germans, both joining and draining Germany’s famed social net. Even more immigrants from Turkey will result in even more numbers of this minority population falling behind.

And, if we’ve learned nothing else this decade, this could be a problem. Disaffected and socially isolated Muslims are ripe for recruitment by extremist and terrorist groups. Already, Germany has seen this occur. In 2007, four men were arrested for plotting to bomb German and American targets. Two of those arrested were German-born Turks. The group had connections to the Islamic Jihad Union, an international extremist group which has its roots in Uzbekistan.

Other nations have also had problems with disaffected Muslims. Three of the four alleged to have masterminded the July 7, 2006 bombings in England were born in England whose heritage came from elsewhere. Those who plotted the failed bombing attempt two weeks later also came from similar backgrounds. Most of the known perpetrators of the 2004 Madrid train bombings were Muslim immigrants who moved to Spain from elsewhere.

But terrorism is not just the only threat from disaffected minority Muslims. In 2005, France was rocked by riots which stemmed from North African Muslim immigrants who lived in housing tenements on the fringe of the nation’s major cities. And, if Turkey does gain EU membership and there is a large population shift, migrants can expect to find housing in these types of estates. Essentially, the newest residents of Europe will be forced to live on the outside. And all that will serve to do is to promote discontent and frustration among the immigrant population.

Europe finds itself in a tough choice. To its east lies the great Russian bear, which is attempting to influence its neighbors through the aggressive usage of natural resources. A viable alternative lies to the south, as Turkey could become the nation which provides Europe with energy stability. It sounds like an easy choice. But by choosing Turkey, Europe may end up finding itself dealing with even more, and worse, problems.

Gregory Gethard is a freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. He has a Master’s Degree in Central and Eastern European Studies from La Salle University.


Gregory Gethard is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer.


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