We often hear a wide diversity of arguments put forth in particular regarding the expansion of the European Union, but not only. What is Europe? Where does it start, and where does it end? Typically, the European continent’s boundaries are set at the Ural Mountains in the East, and the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles (the ancient Hellespont) in the southeast.
Yet by setting such geographical boundaries based on geological features, we immediately encounter problems: what of the entire portion of Russia west of the Ural? What of Ukraine, Belarus, and their neighbors? What of Iceland? What to do, finally, with Turkey, since a portion of its territory is technically in Europe according to the definition above?
To solve this issue, we must first rid ourselves of geography–unlike most nation-states of Western Europe. European civilization, because it is a civilization, thus has its own culture. Now a culture is not limitied by physical boundaries, but by human minds. European culture is different from, say, Muslim or Chinese cultures because it shares simultaneously in Greek learning, Roman law, and a conception of man derived from Christianity (whether this last aspect exists in its secular form or not). European civilization exists wherever lives a people who share in these three factors. As such it can expand or shrink depending on historical events and conditions. This is why countries like Iceland, which lies far away from the European mainland, can pretend to join the European Union while countries like Turkey, however close to the European mainland it may be, cannot (and should not).
Of course, this would mean that we would have also to welcome Russia, the US, or Australia, because all share in this culture. While such thing would not be very realistic from a political point of view, they nonetheless share more with the European Union than the Middle East or North Africa, and would be, from a theoretical point of view, more likely to join. So while there exists a political component to what the European Union is, it is its cultural meaning that must come first.