BRUSSELS, JULY 20 -- A growing number of countries have expressed interest in recent weeks in joining the European Community, which now has 12 member nations.
While Turkey is the only country with a formal membership application pending, hardly a week has gone by recently without another nation showing signs of interest in joining. King Hassan of Morocco sent a bid to the community today that was gently rebuffed.
Danish Foreign Minister Uffe Ellermann Jensen, president of the EC council of ministers, said non-European nations are ineligible for membership.
Since the application by Turkey in April, the new Maltese government has indicated it will seek entry at some later date, and Norway has begun a national discussion that could lead to a new decision to apply in a few years.
Cyprus, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Egypt also have indicated interest, and the trend became so strong that Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri felt compelled to explain why its neutralist foreign policy would prevent it from seeking even associate status.
The sudden interest in the EC by nonmembers has come as a surprise to some within the organization, which often is in the throes of institutional, budgetary or economic crises.
Past expansions have made it more difficult for the EC to reach decisions and has strained financial resources, and some feel the latest additions of Greece, Spain and Portugal have stretched the group's capabilities to the limit.
Some governments, officials and commentators had tried to delay or block the entry of Spain and Portugal last year, and subsequently the assumption was widespread that the EC membership would be frozen for good, or at least until after an adjustment period.
But the attention that EC members and institutions have given to the goal of forming a truly unified continental market of 320 million people has made other nations reflect on the advantages of membership and what they will lose if they are left out.
One official noted that the rules exclude non-European nations and said that even Switzerland's unusual style of federalism and democracy would require "an institutional and political upheaval. There you need practically a national referendum on every decision."
The official expects the EC to be more receptive to Norway than to Turkey, whose request has aroused controversy and is widely expected to be blocked. Norway had negotiated and accepted entry -- along with Britain, Ireland and Denmark -- in the early 1970s, only to see its voters reject membership in a bitter referendum in 1972.
The minority socialist government of Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland issued a document in May calling for a national discussion but holding off on a decision for at least five years. Recent polls indicate only some 18 percent are opposed but 42 percent are undecided.
While most of the EC's European neighbors benefit from advanced free-trade treaties with the EC, they regard the creation of an even tighter trading bloc by the EC members by 1992 as a threat to their exports.
Trade between the community and the six members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) -- Austria, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland -- totaled nearly $200 billion in 1986. Some 50 percent of the exports of the six EFTA countries go into the EC, and their economies and currencies are closely linked.