President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso

From Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle, the New York Times:  [President of the European Commission, José Manuel] Barroso also rejected an American contention, made recently by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that Europe was driving Turkey into the arms of its less secular Islamic neighbors. If Turkey is “moving eastward, it is, in my view, in no small part because it was pushed, and pushed by some in Europe, refusing to give Turkey the kind of organic link to the West that Turkey sought,” Mr. Gates said.

Mr. Barroso said: “I was surprised by those remarks. They don’t conform to the facts. The distance Turkey started to show” from NATO partners and the West “started with the invasion of Iraq and the pressure put on Turkey by the previous U.S. administration” of President George W. Bush.

He acknowledged that some European positions were not helpful — France and Germany have both emphasized that the European Union is a club with a Christian character — but he said that the union should continue to pursue eventual Turkish membership. He cautioned that it was necessary to listen to Turkish officials with respect. “They are extremely sensitive to the way we listen to and respect what they have to propose,” he said. “We should adapt our paradigm to the 21st century.”

The relationship between the European Union and the United States is vital, but “very frankly, this relationship is not living up to its full potential,” Mr. Barroso said. …

The problem is leadership, not institutions, he said.

“There’s a tendency in many politicians to become inward-looking, more protectionist, more nationalistic and more defensive, in the bad sense of the word,” he said. “This is something that we’re seeing, not only in Europe, that we have to be attentive to.”  (photo: Gael Turine/International Herald Tribune)