Talking to Kazakh students in the capital Astana he said: “Britain has always supported the widening of the EU. “Our vision of the EU is that it should be a large trading and co-operating organisation that effectively stretches, as it were, from the Atlantic to the Urals. “We have a wide vision of Europe and have always encouraged countries that want to join.”
He wants Kazakhstan to join? Kazakhstan is a country in central Asia (it shares a border with China). The Kazakhs themselves are a Muslim Turkic group (though there is a sizeable minority of Russians living in Kazakhstan).
|A Kazakh wedding|
It's true that 10% of Kazakhstan lies west of the Ural mountains - presumably Cameron is using this to justify the idea of Kazakhstan joining the EU.
Cameron's speech is a reminder of the weakness of the liberal approach to nationalism. Liberals have ditched the traditional idea of nationalism, in which people were connected together by a shared ethnicity - a common language, culture, race, religion and history - and instead opted for a civic nationalism, in which people were to be united by a common commitment to liberal political institutions and values.
But this liberal civic nationalism is unstable. If all that is needed to belong to a "nation" is a shared commitment to liberalism, then potentially anyone can join. If Kazakhstan proves to meet certain political criteria, then it can join a "European" union even if its population is majority Turkic and Muslim and even if its landmass is 90% in Central Asia. In other words, there are no limits to the boundaries of a civic nation and if there are no limits it becomes meaningless to talk of a particular national identity. You might as well just sign up to the UN and be done with it.
The Kazakhstan speech also shows yet again just how much David Cameron is committed to a liberal view of things rather than a traditionalist conservative one. We shouldn't be surprised by this. After all, Cameron has made his own commitment to liberalism very clear:
today we have a Conservative Party … which wants Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, as a champion of liberal values.