With Turkey's membership talks partially frozen, the 25 EU leaders open a two-day summit Thursday where the bloc will signal to a half-dozen others waiting on the porch that they, too, should not bank on EU leniency if they want to get through the front door.
The European Commission has sent the EU leaders a report of EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn on the way forward in enlargement — an issue that has stoked public unease across Europe and has been blamed for the demise of the EU Constitution.
"We need to emphasize the strategic mission of enlargement — that is ... to encourage democratic and economic transformation (in candidates and) the EU's capacity to continue to function while gradually integrating new members," he said.
The EU is expanding fast. Malta, Cyprus and eight eastern European nations joined in May 2004. Bulgaria and Romania join in January 2007.
Candidates Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia — and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Montenegro and Serbia — are waiting in the wings.
The message from the EU summit will be a warning to current candidates that they must keep working on reforms and that the membership chances of neighbors further away — notably Ukraine and Belarus — are dim.
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