New territorial expansions?

Beril Dedeoglu

We were expecting the European Union to pursue its enlargement toward the east by making Turkey a full member, but Brussels has decided otherwise. Thanks to France, the EU has expanded toward the south, to the Indian Ocean.

The Mayotte archipelago, which had become a French overseas department byreferendum, has been granted the status of “outermost region” by the European Unionas of Jan. 1, 2014. In other words, from now on, the EU flag will fly on the shore ofEast Africa.The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands, but when the latter becamean independent country, Mayotte preferred to remain attached to France in a 1974referendum, and recently become a French department in a second referendum. It is asmall territory with 200,000 inhabitants, mostly Muslim. Thus, one can rightfully saythat France has helped a community of Muslim people to become EU citizens.It is obvious that France never wanted to abandon this faraway land, but we mustacknowledge that the island's status has been decided by its own people, throughdemocratic consultations. So, nobody can claim that the people of Mayotte have beenforced to remain a part of France.Is this example to be repeated elsewhere in the world by other EU member states?Let's imagine this for New Zealand, for example. It is an old British dominion, itshead of state is still Queen Elizabeth II, who appoints a governor general to act on herbehalf. Her portraits are used on the country's banknotes, and its flag looks very muchlike the British one. So, if one day New Zealanders declare that they want to become afull part of the United Kingdom, British politicians and bureaucrats in London willprobably not panic too much. Britain's population will rise by only about 4.5 millionpeople after all and, as a bonus, the EU will reach the Pacific Ocean.What if, one day, people in the autonomous city of Melilla decide to become a fullpart of Spain? Morocco will probably protest, but that will not change a lot. The EUwill therefore acquire a territory in North Africa. The EU would probably preferexpanding its territory, thanks to these individual acquisitions by member states,rather than through new accessions. That will cost less than the accession of newstates; besides, these new territories, cities, islands or regions will not occupy newseats in European institutions.Let's think about other nations that may want to follow France's example. What ifcountries like Russia, China, India or Japan decide to expand their territories through peaceful methods? Try to imagine the regions they will cast their eyes on. Or can this method be applied in order to find a solution to the Palestinian issue? A lot of countries have an imperialistic past, and one can find in those countries many people willing to see these lost provinces return to the “motherland." We had in Turkey, for example, the well known Hatay case. People in that province had declared their will to become a part of Turkey in 1939, and they did, as international circumstances allowed such a move at that particular time. There are still some regions around Turkey with an uncertain status, like Nakhchivan or Kirkuk. Or, what if one day Northern Cypriots lose all hope of reunification, and they feel they will never become an EU member, or a totally independent country? What if they decide to become a full part of the “motherland”? Greece will certainly make a lot of fuss, but not only Greece, as this Mediterranean island was, not long ago, a British colony. International law cannot find answers to all these questions, especially in an international environment where "justice" is often what the powerful countries decide what it is. Let's hope we are not entering into a period during which great powers will have renewed ambitions for territorial expansions. The world has to deal with a lot of crises already.