Günther Verheugen is worried about the Germans’ lack of enthusiasm for EU enlargement. The deputy EU Commission president says he‘s shocked at the extent of Euro-skepticism in Germany which, as a country in the center of Europe and dependent on exports to boot, has more to gain or lose through the fortunes of the EU than any other member state. Germany has been profiting from every enlargement so far, Verheugen adds, and that will also be the case with the accession of Romania and Bulgaria.
Both countries became EU members Jan. 1.
The citizens of both countries marked their EU membership, which came 17 years after the end of communism, with boisterous celebrations. In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, hundreds of balloons with the inscription “Welcome Europe” rose up in the sky. In Bucharest, prominent Europeans joined the New Year celebrations that featured pop concerts and fireworks.
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier greeted the members on behalf Germany, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU. He praised both countries for their attempts to reform themselves in the run-up to their membership but also reminded them that they still have much left to do to reach complete integration. Among other things, the harmonization of the legal frameworks over the safety of perishable goods needs to be improved as well as the fight against corruption and organized crime.
Also, the former Yugoslavia republic, Slovenia, which has been a member for two and a half years, became the 13th state in the euro zone Jan. 1.