LONDON (Reuters)–European Union external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said on Saturday the bloc was nearing the limits of its expansion but he hoped Muslim NATO member Turkey could yet be accommodated.
Patten said–however–it was unlikely Israel–suggested for inclusion by some European politicians–could become a member of the bloc that is due to expand from 15 to 25 members next year.
"There must be a line somewhere where the EU ends. We have almost got to the line,” Patten told Britain’s BBC radio.
"I think there is a sense that at 25 or 30 the EU is going to be difficult to run. At much more than that–well nigh impossible,” he added.
EU leaders failed at a summit this month to agree on a constitution to manage the enlarged union. Some fear conflicts in a bloc embracing such disparate economies as Poland and Germany could hamper its function.
Patten said he very much hoped Turkey–expecting a decision late next year on the opening of membership negotiations–could join the union.
"I hope it will be able to show us in the course of the next few months that it is up to the job of negotiating membership.”
But he said a deal to admit Turkey would depend on "a positive decision on Cyprus.”
Greek southern Cyprus is due to enter the EU next year. But the Turkish-backed breakaway territory of northern Cyprus has so far rejected a UN-backed reunification plan and could become a source of tension–remaining outside the EU remit.
Patten said it was unlikely the EU would include Israel one day.
"What we are trying to do is find ways in which they (Israelis) can share our policies and our markets without sharing our institutions,” he said.