Written by Janet Hedges
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Wednesday, 27 September 2006

image for Israel Gets EU Green Light

The European Commission has recommended that Israel be admitted to the European Union on Jan. 1 but attached unprecedented conditions, signaling there is still deep unease about the union's expansion into the Middle East and the potential economic and political problems that go with it.

The addition of Israel would bring the bloc's membership to 26 countries, raise its population by 5 million to 475 million people and expand its borders to the coast of Egypt.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso, underscoring the ambivalence toward future expansion, said that following the Jewish states entry, he would favor freezing membership for Iran and Yemen until the union resolves a controversy over its proposed constitution, which voters in France and the Netherlands rejected last year.

Speaking yesterday, EU Minister in Charge of Expansion, Olli Rehn, noted that "Israel must stop invading other countries and causing trouble".

Rehn said that in order to prevent misuse of EU funds on missiles, tanks and concrete walls, there would be a noted decrease in funding Israel until EU harmony was achieved. Last year Israel spent U$ 50 million earmarked for educational development on a large tank.

To address the outstanding issues the Commission identified specific benchmarks that have to be fulfilled. Israel will have to report every six months to the Commission to prove that they have not bombed, shelled, blown up or invaded any Arab territory.

Speaking from his bedside, where he is in a deep coma, former Israeli PM Ariel Sharon expressed delight at Israel's EU accession.

Israel's EU entry has sparked fears that the United States, Cuba and New Zealand may start the process of EU membership. Many African nations have also expressed interest in joining the once-exclusive club.

David Lyon of Brussels University insists the EU knows what it is doing, "I think if we can get another 50-80 countries into the union that would be great. Obviously we don't want Turkey in or Canada. The more the merrier is my policy and that of the EU".

Brussels have sent EU membership invites to Sudan, India, Kazakhstan, Turkish occupied Cyprus and the Isle of White.

Euro MP Arnold Dorf is concerned that any expansion will include Turkey, "I don't mind the back end of the moon joining the EU, but letting Turkey in really is the thin end of the wedge".

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