Not Your Everyday News

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

European Union

An interesting headline in the news today, at least for folks who
are from or have lived in Europe. As of Jan. 1, 2007, both Bulgaria
and Romania joined the European Union. This raised the member-
ship in the E.U. to 27 countries. The E.U. was originally known as
the European Economic Community and was established in 1957
by the Treaty of Rome; it's original members were Belgium, France,
Italy, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and West Germany. Denmark,
Ireland, and the United Kingdom joined in 1973, Greece in 1981,
Portugal and Spain in 1986, and West Germany became a unified
Germany in the E.U. in 1990, just a year after the Berlin Wall came
down. Austria, Finland, and Sweden entered the club in 1995, and in
2004 the biggest membership jump occurred, when Cyprus, Hungary,
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, The Czech Republic, Slovakia,
Malta, and Slovenia all joined. Most had been ex-Iron Curtain nations
prior to the remarkable events of 1989. Now with the addition of
Bulgaria and Romania, 2 more of the ex-Soviet controlled communist
countries are in the fold. Both countries are looking forward to the
benefits of membership; these include economic aid, environmental
cleanup, food safety regulations, and an improved infrastructure,
particularly roads and bridges. There is also the hope for continued
peace in the region and improved prosperity; both Balkan nations
are poor by Western European standards, but they have had strong
economic growth in recent years. As with all nations in the E.U.,
Romania and Bulgaria will need to report progress every 6 months,
to insure that reforms are being done, or else risk losing E.U. funds.
There is still concern over lingering corruption in the judiciary in
both nations, but all parties involved are confident that this will be
cleaned up (easier said than done unfortunately). It will be rather
fascinating to see how this new relationship develops over the next
few years, and if it will be purely economic, or cultural as well.


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