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The 25 Member EU
April 30, 2004 5:26 PM   Subscribe

The European Union welcomes 10 new members! As I write this, the celebrations have started as Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia become members of the EU today. While some folks are gonna party like crazy, others are warning of doom and gloom. What do you think? Will this have significant effects on global culture, politics, and economics - or will it merely represent a paper change within the rarefied world of European diplomats, with little other than localized effects on day to day life?
posted by MidasMulligan (43 comments total)

 
A good roundup of viewpoints on enlargement from the BBC. I think residents of those countries will see price rises and lots of their young people going west to work, but it's on the whole, a wonderful thing. And we need the competition.

But I can not believe Turkey's not in yet.
posted by amberglow at 5:35 PM on April 30, 2004


I also wonder about the other countries--Croatia, Bosnia, Romania, Albania, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, etc....are they trying to get in too? And what about Russia itself? What's their take on an ever-closer EU?
posted by amberglow at 5:40 PM on April 30, 2004


oops--i didn't read all the doom and gloom. This sucks, and ensures they're second-class for a while: the EU has limited the free movement of EU citizens from the new member states for another seven years. This measure was supported by the labour unions. Even though they belong to the EU, workers from Eastern Europe will not be allowed to live and work in the country of their choice. The decision on who will be accepted as immigrants remains with the individual old EU members. Special regulations will be provided for certain industries.
posted by amberglow at 5:44 PM on April 30, 2004


Hey Miguel! I'm curious what your take on this is (if you haven't been drinking at one of the parties. Or even if you have been. In fact, especially if you have been.) And other European MeFi'ers.

(Hell ... maybe Matt can celebrate the day by making a few selected memberships open to people resident in the joining countries).

One thing that strikes me as odd is that this (at least on the surface) a fairly major global event - in some ways even historically unprecedented ... but seems to be second or third page news in the US, Latin America, and Asia.
posted by MidasMulligan at 5:49 PM on April 30, 2004


OK, Midas, you took the pole position ...

“Maybe he needs two hunderd men, so he talks to five hunderd, an’ they tell other folks, an’ when you get to the place, they’s a thousan’ men. This here fella says, ‘I’m payin’ twenty cents an hour.’ An’ maybe half a the men walk off. But they’s still five hundred that’s so goddamn hungry they’ll work for nothing but biscuits (...) The more fellas he can get, an’ the hungrier, less he’s gonna pay.”
-- John Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath

[read though the links, things are getting better]
posted by MzB at 6:19 PM on April 30, 2004


Hiya, Midas! Thanks for this post - just shows you're not the insular Manhattanite your critics like to think you are.

Here in Lisbon, at least, there's much celebrating - we Portuguese love foreigners (we only hate the Portuguese, which is what keeps us together) and the prevailing sentiment is "the more the merrier".

As one of the poorest countries in the EU there's a lot of sympathy for the new members which are all as poor or poorer than us. So we get new "soak the rich" partners and, even if we have to compete with them, they're all great countries with rich cultures, all very different from eachother, and it will be great fun getting to know them.

Thank you so much for remembering this old friend of yours!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:35 PM on April 30, 2004


It seems European-style imperialism would be preferable over the American style.

As a EU citizen I'm not too worried about the extra competition in the workplace, but then again I work in the sort of field where borders have traditionally mattered little to movement of workers anyway.
posted by spazzm at 6:39 PM on April 30, 2004


amberglow, here is more info. Follow Dragos' links - there is plenty to read.
posted by MzB at 6:48 PM on April 30, 2004


I hope that this doesn't make Estonia too expensive. Its charm is based on Finnish-looking women at Eastern Bloc prices.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:00 PM on April 30, 2004


Just curious, what would happen if a member state wanted to withdraw.. but the rest of the EU didn't want it too because it might cause a domino effect or some other critical reason.

In America exactly this event happened and it led to Civil War in 1860. It took 3 generations from the formation of the union to the crisis of State Rights and I would hazzard a guess the grandchildren of todays leaders may question the wisdom of unifying Europe at some point in the future, perhaps sooner.

This is why the EU scares me. Not that the old situation was any better, but there will be a test, a crisis, to see how strong the Union really is. It's all honymoon period right now.
posted by stbalbach at 7:14 PM on April 30, 2004


there will be a test, a crisis, to see how strong the Union really is. It's all honeymoon period right now.

Shhhhhh. SHHHHHH! Let them figure that out! The rest of us can think of about 30 combinations of ethnic groups that will wake up one day and say "I'm allied with WHOM? What the hell?"

And then Yugoslavia will look like a church picnic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:22 PM on April 30, 2004


So we get new "soak the rich" partners

Is that really all there is to the EU? It's disappointing that most of Europe seems intent on suicide, with few exceptions.

I'll continue to hope for the best.
posted by hama7 at 7:29 PM on April 30, 2004


What do you think?

Hey, if it leads to more of this, I'm all for it. (NSFW. Although, to be honest, you really shouldn't be working right now anyway. It's Friday night. Go home.)
posted by pardonyou? at 7:40 PM on April 30, 2004


hama7 get a clue. Any idea that "socialism" could really exist here in Europe evaporated when the wall came down (except for some radical fringes). What we have, almost without exception in the major political parties, is a type of capitalism that is tempered with a view that, yes, there actually IS such a thing as society, and we damn well had better value it unless we want to go down the road of rampant commercialism and devil-take-the-hindmost, which seems to be the ruling ethos on your side of the pond.

We don't need or want the US telling us how to run our economies: we do just fine thank you. If Britain would pull its head out of its ass (and its tongue from your president's) we could be part of a strengthening Euro and even possibly bring about a military force which is direly needed (it would seem) to help bring the world back into balance.

Vive L'Europe!
posted by cbrody at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2004


And pardonyou, it's Saturday morning here in Europe, thank you very much.
posted by cbrody at 7:46 PM on April 30, 2004


Is that really all there is to the EU?

Nah, dear hama7 - I was just joshing. The EU is actually very interesting and exciting as member countries are so different from each other yet love the differences. It seems only yesterday we were all at each other's throats so it's nice that we can compete according to commonly agreed rules.

Of course, Southern countries tend to stick together (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece) as they have so much in common, but there are all sorts of other intense relationships between apparently very different nations. Portugal, for instance, has been in love with Britain for over six centuries (our alliance, dating back to the 14th Century, is the oldest in the world, though the love affair started well before that - John of Gaunt helped conquer Lisbon from the Moors in the early 12th) and has a fond passion for the French, the Danes, the Dutch, the Hungarians (who are a lot like us) and a few others.

As far as Spain is concerned - our great competitor, which has repeatedly tried to conquer us (and we them) - our fears and suspicions relate only to the Castilians. Catalonians, Basques and Galicians we see as brothers - they have the same problem with Castile.

It's complex - very old - but the EU has done a lot to make us all forget about past complexes and stereotypes. It's nice to know that tomorrow, if the bailiffs come knocking, I can install myself and my wife in any EU country I fancy. It's also nice to know that Poles and Estonians can become my next-door neighbours.

As I said, Europe is interesting and Europeans are good, interesting people. It's all good! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:12 PM on April 30, 2004


The only problem I have with this is that the further the EU spreads, the further their extremely draconian and pro-corporate laws regarding the Internet, copyright, and reverse-engineering spread. I'm not at all happy about that.
posted by Ryvar at 10:00 PM on April 30, 2004


Romania 2007!

Restrictions or no restrictions, drawbacks or no drawbacks, there is nary a reasonable Romanian who will complain about any steps taken to integrate with the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. Eastern Europe and particularly the Balkans have been ignored and isolated for far too long.

Balkan Ghosts is an amazing book about the Balkans in general, and Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria in particular that deals with their role in the world after 1990 as well as some of the reasons as to why they are so different from the rest of Europe.

This is not to say that the EU doesn't have problems, or that there aren't serious repercussions to creating a pan-European government, just that for Romania, among others, still on the outside, Europe is far better than any alternative.
posted by loquax at 10:27 PM on April 30, 2004


I think Norway is looking forward to having the UK joining them outside the EU fairly soon, after their referendum on the (horrible) Constitution. Then the French and Germans can sit there with their botched economies, now having to subsidize even more poor countries, while the outsiders steam ahead. Mwahahah.
posted by dagny at 11:40 PM on April 30, 2004


I think Norway is looking forward to having the UK joining them outside the EU fairly soon, after their referendum on the (horrible) Constitution.

Admit it: the Norwegians stay out because the only way to get spirits cheaply is to buy them duty-free from their neighbours.

Anyway, the more the merrier: especially because they're small countries, and small countries are cool. I just feel sorry -- or rather, sorrier, since they've been in a mess for ages -- for the people of Kaliningrad, Kant's old Königsberg.
posted by riviera at 12:01 AM on May 1, 2004


The people in the new member states might not get all the benefits right away, but the states are still full members. Poland in particular, with it's 39 million people, is going to be a major player in EU politics.

It is quite telling that the "doom and gloom" link is to a socialist website, communist parties are the biggest opponents of EU, in many countries proponents of leaving the EU. (Which, by the way, is possible.)
posted by lazy-ville at 1:33 AM on May 1, 2004


the EU has limited the free movement of EU citizens from the new member states for another seven years. This measure was supported by the labour unions. Even though they belong to the EU, workers from Eastern Europe will not be allowed to live and work in the country of their choice. The decision on who will be accepted as immigrants remains with the individual old EU members. Special regulations will be provided for certain industries.: amberglow

as far as i know, the Republic of Ireland is allowing full freedom of movement from the new EU members, i think one or two other countries are as well, but i'm not sure.
posted by knapah at 4:14 AM on May 1, 2004


UK is allowing freedom of movement as well. Contrary to what the world socialist website says, EU has not put any limits of the free movement of the new citizens, but an exemption of the usual free movement regulations has been given to the old member states. The member states can limit workers from the new member states for 2 years, and impose some limits until 2011.
posted by lazy-ville at 5:26 AM on May 1, 2004


amberglow: Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are all pretty keen to join up, Bulgaria is probably at the head of the queue to get in but their accession may be delayed in order to get them and Romania in at the same time. Turkey seems likely to be a little further behind, their delay generally being related to perennial human rights abuses, though other interpretations may also be attached to this. I haven't heard much discussion of the ex-yugoslavian states joining up.
posted by biffa at 5:28 AM on May 1, 2004


For non-UK MeFites: There have been a lot of scare stories in the press in the UK about the number of immigrants that will 'flood' the UK come today's enlargement of the union, compounding the general anti-immigrant theme that has been common in much of the UK press for the last couple of years. The same thing has cropped up before when other countries have joined up. The same papers seem to overlook the large number of Brits who now have retirement/second homes all over Southern Europe, a trend that may well further expand to Malta and others given the relative wealth of northern Europe and the currently strong pound.
posted by biffa at 5:33 AM on May 1, 2004


biffa, Slovenia, one of the newly admitted members, is an ex-Yugoslavian state.
posted by cbrody at 6:19 AM on May 1, 2004


Thanks all. It seems like the whole region will, someday, eventually, get in. And re: working anywhere in the EU: does freedom of movement include the right to work?

I read in one the links, above, that Eastern/Southern Europe has already been the choice place to manufacture clothes and goods for Western Europe (cheaper labor and costs, etc) for a while now. That's bound to change now, no? Is the plan to bring those economies up to match the West (like how Portugal and Ireland and Spain had to catch up and change?) Or is the West content with them staying a cheap labor/costs pool? (I guess i'm really wondering whether this expansion benefits businesses in the West more than the people living in those countries.)
posted by amberglow at 7:45 AM on May 1, 2004


Why isn't Turkey a member of the EU?

Turkey's poor human rights record (Human Rights Watch link) is a sufficient reason for it not to be invited to join the European Union just yet. The European Union is not just an economic grouping, but one which was set up after World War II to provide a foundation for principles such as peace and human rights; Turkey just doesn't qualify at the moment. Turkey isn't exactly a dictatorship as, say, East Germany or Greece under the colonels were, but it's not exactly a paragon democracy either.

Even after these issues are sorted out, there's the whole issue of Cyprus which would stand in the way - remember Turkey effectively occupies part of the island, the Greek Cypriot part of which voted 'No' to Kofi Annan's reunification plan a few days before joining the EU The 'No' vote seems to have come as a big shock to the European Union, which seems to have expected reunification before Cyprus joined the EU. This is a problem better addressed by diplomacy prior to Turkey joining the EU, rather than afterwards.

And besides all that, there are the practicalities of integrating a large, poor country. Turkey has a population of 68 million, greater than the population of the UK or France; the largest of the new members is Poland with a population of around 38 million. All the other new joiners are much smaller still - Slovenia has only 2 million, for instance. Turkey joining the EU may therefore pose an even bigger economic challenge than all ten of the new members combined; inviting Turkey as well as the eastern European countries may well be too great a shock to the system, even for the EU!

Which isn't to say Turkey will never join; the EU is a work in progress. It's just that now isn't the time. Twenty years ago, who imagined an independent and free Lithuania joining the European Union?

---

Yes, the expansion of the EU has far-reaching consequences, for everyone. The European Union in all its various facets is something new - a type of union of states on different levels which is itself not a state, but something greater and deeper than other regional groupings we've seen in the past. This may partly explain why the coverage of the event outside Europe has been rather shallow or limited. It's something new, the implications of which are not yet fully understood by people in Europe or elsewhere. It is easy to dismiss what is not understood. (Coverage of the complexities of the American political process similarly gets short shrift elsewhere).

Maybe this is also why science journalism gets a bad reputation.
No matter how important something is, if it's not dramatic and people can't get a quick handle on a story, it's not 'newsworthy'.

---

Oh, and I saw the fireworks in Budapest last night. Very nice.
posted by plep at 7:49 AM on May 1, 2004


and from euobserver.com (thanks MzB--it's just the site i needed): ...Sweden will be one of only three EU countries not limiting access to its labour markets for citizens from central and eastern Europe.
Ireland and the UK will also grant free access to their labour markets but intend to restrict access to social security schemes.


The old member states need the new people, i think (due to zero or negative population growth), but their unemployment rates are already high. Are there mechanisms to eventually allow every single person in all the EU member states to freely travel for better work prospects? I also wonder if some now will now go East in search of opportunity? Is anyone here thinking about it?

And plep, aren't Turks pissed? I'd be. And some of the Eastern nations now joining (or joining in the next round) certainly have/had some of the same problems, I'd think. And then in terms of business/economy, they're a giant, growing consumer market, which is desirable (i've worked with some Turks on Turkish editions of a magazine I work on here).
posted by amberglow at 8:06 AM on May 1, 2004


Restrictions or no restrictions, drawbacks or no drawbacks, there is nary a reasonable Romanian who will complain about any steps taken to integrate with the rest of Europe and the rest of the world.

That's true, but most of them down here that will be affected by the entry will be the rural folk. We desperately need to fix things up in our agricultural system, and our current government did not do much.

Basically, in Romania everyone just hopes that our entry will not be postponed to 2009. We want to get into the EU, but we aren't sure that our government will be able to properly complete the schedule. And since the ruling party (PSD - largely corrupt, gets most votes from rural, uneducated Romanian) might get another term, it doesn't look like something's gonna change.

And about the possible complaints to integration: it won't matter. Since our new constitution we won't be asked if we desire to join the aforementioned body.
posted by Masi at 8:14 AM on May 1, 2004


pardonyou?: that topless woman, I'm proud to say, is a Slovenian, although they misspelled her name. What a proud moment.

For people wondering about the Balkans: Croatia is in the process of becoming a candidate and is expected to join in 2007 with Bulgaria and Romania. Bosnia is currently in the pre-pre-candidacy stage, as is Macedonia. Of the former Yugoslav republics, only Serbia & Montenegro is putting little or no effort into joining.

Here in Slovenia the mood is generally festive, although the level of skepticism is slowly growing. (A recent television poll found that 80% of Slovenes are expecting things to get worse at first, not better.)

Unfortunately, I think the EU will be an irresistable scapegoat and that politicians will blame expansion for virtually any problem that comes around from now on.

But, anyway, here's hoping it all turns out well!
posted by Ljubljana at 8:32 AM on May 1, 2004


And plep, aren't Turks pissed? I'd be.

Well, as they say, don't get mad, get even ;).

In none of the existing EU states are human rights abuses - including torture and holding prisoners of conscience - as routine as they are in Turkey (Amnesty International covers the cases of small numbers of conscientious objectors to national service in certain countries, but not on the same scale as Turkey). The EU can't force Turkey to 'put its own house in order', but it doesn't have to invite its membership until it does so either.

Really really wanting something doesn't mean you can just have it! ;)
posted by plep at 8:40 AM on May 1, 2004


Compare Human Rights Watch's reports on Turkey with Slovakia, which is widely seen as the least democratic of the new joiners, for instance, and one sees why people might be somewhat less than enthusiastic about the idea of Turkey joining the EU at the moment...
posted by plep at 9:03 AM on May 1, 2004


Croatia is in the process of becoming a candidate and is expected to join in 2007 with Bulgaria and Romania

Ljubljana, from what I understand, Croatia cannot be expected to join before 2009.
posted by Masi at 9:39 AM on May 1, 2004


As a Pole living in the United States, I plan on moving back to Europe next year. Not necessarily back to Poland, but Spain, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany... The options are many. Miguel - how is the weather in Portugal at this time of the year?

I'm a very happy Pole on this May Day.
posted by romanb at 9:51 AM on May 1, 2004


Masi: There was some skepticism about Croatia w/r/t to its cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal, but 2007 is definitely being tossed around as a possible entry date.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:55 AM on May 1, 2004


As much as I like Turkey (I've been there three times, and cannot wait to go back) and the Turks I've met, I would be very wary of joining into a political alliance with them. Their human rights abuses are not minor, nor do they seem to bother the average Turkish voter.

I have a lot of apprehension for some of the new member states. But as someone who has lived in the Czech Republic, and has travelled to Slovenia and Poland, I am happy that these nations will have a solid currency, and will feel more comfortable abroad. They have a lot more to offer than a cheap work force. The EU will offer them some stability with which to build their economies.

Damn, I wish Canada would join. Nafta hasn't worked out for us well.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:16 PM on May 1, 2004


cbrody: you're right about Slovenia of course. Still, it will be a while before most of the other ex-yugoslavs will get in, I think.
posted by biffa at 3:56 PM on May 1, 2004


Miguel - how is the weather in Portugal at this time of the year?

Wonderful, dear co-citizen romanb! And a bottle of Wyborowa is still only 7 euros, a lot cheaper than that non-EU rubbish. :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:34 PM on May 1, 2004


This is simply fab news, welcome to the Union newbies!

From a UK-centric point of view, this will begin to redress some of the problems about labour shortages that businesses in the south-east have been crying out about for years.
posted by dmt at 6:50 AM on May 2, 2004


Interesting article regarding the Cyprus partition and how the Green Line is now a de facto European frontier.
posted by Vidiot at 12:00 PM on May 2, 2004


gesamtkunstwerk: I agree - I wish the EU would consider being open to countries like Canada. It would be so much better for us too, being a medium to large player rather than dwarfed - and I think we would have a lot to Europe too, as we have a lot of natural resources to trade for manufactured goods (more Ikea furniture please!)
posted by jb at 1:22 PM on May 2, 2004


Yes, the expansion of the EU has far-reaching consequences, for everyone. The European Union in all its various facets is something new - a type of union of states on different levels which is itself not a state, but something greater and deeper than other regional groupings we've seen in the past ... It's something new, the implications of which are not yet fully understood by people in Europe or elsewhere.

Well, there's another almost continental union of states already in existence - which didn't really become a "nation" itself until it underwent a civil war. And there are still people pushing for a more federalist (state's rights) version of things.
posted by mdn at 4:56 PM on May 2, 2004


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