European Community Keeps Austria Waiting
West European diplomats suggested Tuesday that Austria’s request for membership in the European Community faces a long wait. At the least, they said, Austria and other would-be members such as Turkey will have to stand in line until 1992, when the single European market goes into effect.
In fact, sentiment is growing in some of the 12 member nations that the community should not be enlarged until the results of the single market can be experienced. Further, officials in some member nations are suggesting that candidates for admission be carefully screened on wealth, religion and feelings about neutrality.
Thus, although Austria would appear to be a natural candidate--it is situated in the center of Europe and was once a font of continental culture--its application is being placed on hold until after Austria’s neutral status is closely examined.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock, in submitting his government’s application to community officials Monday, said Austria’s “internationally recognized status of permanent neutrality” must be maintained. Neutrality was written into the 1955 peace treaty that Austria signed with the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France, the victors of World War II.
But some members of the European Community believe that it should be moving toward greater political unity and common security measures, and they have suggested that a neutral nation would not fit in.
Ireland is generally neutral, but such status is not a part of its constitution. Nor did Ireland make it an issue when it entered the community in 1973.
In the past, observers have predicted that many additional countries would eventually join the European Community, among them neutrals like Switzerland, the Nordic nations and Mediterranean nations such as Cyprus and Malta. But community officials in Brussels now suggest that the introduction of additional southern countries may be too expensive.
Most northern nations are net contributors to the community, while Greece, Spain, Portugal and southern Italy are net recipients.
Britain has fought long and hard to get the size of its budget contribution reduced, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is thought to frown on welcoming countries that would make immediate demands on the community budget.
Turkey, which applied for membership two years ago, has been the subject of debate. It is situated for the most part in Asia, and its people are largely Muslim. Its culture is vastly different from that of the community’s mainly Christian European members.
“We will all be studying the applications carefully,” a Bonn diplomat said.