Barroso hails EU enlargement on key accession anniversaries

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on New Year's Day hailed the enlargement of the European Union (EU), saying it is good for both existing members and acceding countries.

"The example of Greece, Spain and Portugal provides good evidence that enlargement is beneficial to the existing as well as to the acceding countries," said Barroso in a statement on the accession anniversaries of the three countries.

Greece joined the EU 25 years ago; Spain and Portugal became members five years later.

"Today, we can proudly say that Greece, Spain and Portugal as well as Europe as a whole have all become much stronger as a result of the second and third enlargements," said Barroso.

"It (The accession of these countries) consolidated Europe's Mediterranean and Atlantic dimensions, and opened up new vistas in Africa and Latin America."

The perspective of membership helped consolidate democracy and encourage reform in these countries, said Barroso. "Membership led to unprecedented development, the result of which was greater stability and greater competitiveness."

He admitted that the three countries need to adapt themselves in face of globalization.

Further enlargement, however, is a controversy among EU citizens. After the fifth enlargement in 2004 took in 10 Eastern and Central European countries, an "enlargement fatigue" has gripped Europe.

Opinion polls showed that the majority of the citizens are opposed to further enlargement of the 25-nation bloc.

Euro-sceptism is also growing after the EU constitution was vetoed in two founding member states -- France and the Netherlands -- in May and June 2005.

The latest Eurobarometer poll showed that only one third of Britons believe EU membership is a good thing. In Austria, which takes over the rotating EU presidency on New Year's Day, the rate was even lower -- 32 percent.

The EU started accession talks with Turkey and Croatia in October 2005. Talks with Turkey are said to last at least a decade.Croatia hopes to join in 2009, but the EU has refused to set a date for the conclusion of the talks.

The EU granted Macedonia candidate state status in December but negotiations are yet to start. In the long run, the EU looks to take in all Balkan states. Further afield, Ukraine and Moldova are waiting in the wings.

Source: Xinhua

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