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EU Leaders Discuss Membership Requirements

European Union leaders are expected to discuss ways to toughen membership criteria during a two-day summit in Brussels. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more on the debate from Paris.

Just how big the European Union should be and where its borders should end is increasingly being questioned in Europe. The 25-member block is set to expand to 27 with the entry of Romania and Bulgaria in January. It most recently slowed membership talks with Turkey over Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to E.U.-member Cyprus.

Despite these concerns, Jacki Davis of the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based research organization, says European leaders now meeting in Brussels are not going to stop expansion.

"What they are doing is spelling out the conditions under which the European Union can continue to expand," Davis says. "That means both in terms of what countries have to do to prepare themselves for membership, and they are undoubtedly getting tougher on that, but also what Brussels have to do to put its own house in order as it gets bigger and bigger so that it can continue to function."

That means reforming E.U. institutions and deciding the future of an E.U. constitution that was rejected by French and Dutch voters in referenda last year. They will be among the top agenda items of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as her country takes over the E.U. presidency in January.

Whether Germany will make much progress is open to debate, particularly at a time when European leadership is shifting. France is scheduled to hold presidential elections next April and British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to step down in the coming months.