Churchill once said that "The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative". Well, I think you can say that the EU invariably does the right thing, after having said so many nice things about the right thing at ceremonious occasions, as to make it too late to look for alternatives.
EU leaders have agreed to begin membership talks with Turkey in October 2005. Despite the fact that this is merely the start of a very long journey, this is cause for celebration. After the rapid political and economic reforms in Turkey the last few years any other decision would have been discriminatory, and a way of saying that the EU is an exclusive Christian club. Of course there are implementation problems in Turkey, particularly about human rights, but the same goes for Romania and other countries cleared for membership. Opening negotiations is the best way to make sure that this positive process continues in Turkey.
The critics say that Turkey is big, poor and Muslim. I say that this is exactly why it's so important to make it an EU member. It's big - and an ageing Europe needs its millions of workers. It's poor - which means that it really needs the open European market, and it also means that the bizarre regional funds of the EU won't be able to survive such an enlargement. It's Muslim - and Islam desperately needs to be secularised, just as Christianity was. Helping secular and Muslim Turkey to become a stable and rich democracy is our best hope to contribute to such a transition. And a union which includes the country that used to be the heartland of Islam would be an efficient way of avoiding a clash of civilisations, and proving that the present conflict is really a civil war within Islam.