Eu Enlargement : Romania and Bulgaria Join the Eu

Article excerpt

Huge celebrations took place in Bulgaria and Romania on 31 December 2006 and on New Year's day to mark the accession of the European Union's two latest member states. Thousands of people attended concerts and festivities in Bucharest and Sofia. 'It was hard, but we arrived at the end of the road. It is the road of our future. It is the road of our joy,' said Romanian President Traian Basescu as he opened the celebrations in Bucharest on New Year's Eve.

In an emotional address to the nation, Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov called the country's EU entry a 'heavenly moment'. 'The day we are welcoming - 1 January 2007 - will undoubtedly find its place among the most important dates in our national history,' he said. 'But let's make it clear, our future success as a nation depends not on European funds and resources, but on our own work,' he added.

OLD EU' WELCOMES NEW MEMBERS

'We arrived in Europe. Welcome to Europe,' said Basescu in University Square, where he was joined by EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and the foreign ministers of Germany, Denmark, Austria and Hungary. They welcomed Romanian citizens into the European Union and wished them a happy new year. The following day they joined celebrations in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria has always been part of Europe and "we are now celebrating a new era which will not only be the era of all Bulgarians but also of Europe. Welcome to Europe". Those were the words of EU Parliament President Josep Borrell, Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, spoken from the stage of the New Year concert held on 1 January in Sofia. "A dream of many generations of Bulgarians has come true today," said Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.

"The New Year is important to Europe, not only to Bulgaria and Romania," said Steinmeier. On 1 January Germany took over the Presidency of the European Union for the next six months. "Bulgaria is welcome for two reasons. Firstly, EU accession does away with the historical injustice that happened after World War II, namely the division of the continent into two camps. Secondly, with its rich culture Bulgaria has always been a part of Europe," he said. "Bulgaria is a fully-fledged member of the EU with all the rights and obligations that come with that,' said Rehn. 'I truly believe Bulgaria will continue its progress," he added.

"Your MEPs will be received with open arms at the EP from January 15," said Borrell. "We have to join efforts in order to protect human rights, democratic freedoms, equality of the sexes and integrity of society in order to be united," he added.

WORK TO BE DONE

When the celebrations marking theiraEU accession die down, Bulgaria and Romania will have to get down to some hard work. Despite 15 years of deep-rooted reforms that were introduced as part of the EU negotiation process, both countries still have work to do to fully meet EU standards. Progress is required in particular in areasasuch as food safety and justice and security. …