EU Enlargement Backing Drops Below Half; Turkey Least Favored

(Bloomberg)–European Union citizens are increasingly opposed to further enlargement of the 25-member bloc–with less than half now in favor of accepting new members–a poll conducted on behalf of the European Commission showed.

Backing for further EU expansion fell to 49 percent in an October-November survey from 50 percent in July–the commission said Tuesday in Brussels.

There is "reluctance if not outright opposition to further enlargement in Austria–Luxembourg–France and Germany," the Commission said of the poll–published on its Web site.

Concern about the economic costs of expanding the EU’s borders to include nations such as Turkey–a mostly Muslim nation of 70 million people–deepened after French and Dutch voters rejected the bloc’s constitution in referendums earlier this year. Only 31 percent now favor membership for Turkey–compared with 35 percent in the previous survey.

Backing for Croatia–which began accession talks together with Turkey on October 3–was 51 percent–the commission said.

While support for further enlargement of the EU is strongest in the 10 mostly-East European nations that joined last year–fewer of their citizens now want to expand the bloc’s borders–the Commission said. Sixty-eight percent back enlargement–down from 72 percent six months ago.

EU governmen’s are negotiating with Bulgaria–Croatia–Romania–and Turkey. A change of heart by one government would spoil the talks–since the EU needs unanimity to go ahead with the negotiations.

Europe’s citizens most favor EU membership for Switzerland–Norway–and Iceland–three members of the European Free Trade Association.

Support for expanding the EU’s borders was strongest in Greece–Slovenia–and Poland–the Commission said.

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