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Debt crisis tarnishes the euro club

The European Union was once the hottest international club around. Does its debt crisis and infighting make less appealing to those who have waited years to gain admission?

Kai Ryssdal: One way to think about the European Union -- setting its economic and political problems aside for a second -- is kind of like a club. And for a time, the EU was the hottest international club around -- everybody wanted to join.

But adding its economic and political problems back in, what's the upside to membership at the moment? Sally Herships has more.


Sally Herships: Talk about a wait. Between treaties and negotiations, joining the EU could take a country years. And with all that debt to bail out and in-fighting, seems like the place may be going downhill. So who wants in now?

Catherine Mann: Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia.

Catherine Mann teaches economics at Brandeis.

Mann: Joining the EU has a lot of advantages for a small country.

Like the ability to live, work or play in almost 30 countries. And you don't even need to bring your passport. It's called the Schengen Agreement. Tempting, but not necessarily enough to persuade a country to join the EU.

But wait, there's more.

Mann: You might get some money out of it.

Even if the EU has to spend billions to bail out Greece, it would still have cash set aside for its special interests, like paying people under 40 to be farmers.

Mann: There's always money left for farmers.

Then there's security. Take EU member Estonia. It's a tiny country, and it shares a border with Russia -- its massive former occupier.

Stewart Johnson is a American comedian who settled in Estonia. Here's his take on why, when you're considering joining the EU, size does matter.

Stewart Johnson: Look at these Occupy Wall Street protests that have basically circulated the globe of late. Now they have Occupy Wall Street in France, Germany, Russia. Except in Russia they call it Occupy Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

But aside from small countries, who wants in to the EU? Turkey has been trying to get a date since 1987. But the EU may have been playing too hard to get. Catherine Mann again.

Mann: It's kind of like that movie title, 'he's just not that into you,' that's the way it is with Turkey.

But now it looks like Turkey may not be that into you, EU. Turkey has realized there are other fish in the sea.

Ilhan Tanir is a reporter with Vatan Daily, the Turkish newspaper. He says maybe Turkey should form its own union and ask some other countries to join it instead of the EU.

Ilhan Tanir: Maybe not yet France and Italy and Germany, but you know, Greece.

So in the off chance Turkey is able to form an alliance with a historic enemy, how would it back out gracefully from the EU?

Philip Galanes is author of "Social Q's." He says one of the easiest ways to refuse an invitation, regardless of how aggressively you may have hinted for it is to plead a prior engagement.

Philip Galanes: So Turkey might say, 'Gosh, we would love to join the EU, but we've just accepted a three-episode arc on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and god knows where that could lead.'

How diplomatic!

In New York, I'm Sally Herships for Marketplace.


Ryssdal: So which troubled eurozone nation are you? We've made up a little quiz for our Facebook page. First question? How do you like your cheese?

About the author

Sally Herships is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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