Bulgaria and Romania have joined the European Union. Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov spoke out at a ceremony staged by Sofia to mark the historic occasion. Underlining the contribution his country can make, Parvanov said that through its ability to bring security to a region as difficult and complex as the Balkans, Bulgaria aimed to reinforce the EU.
European leaders joining in the festivities included Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign minister of Germany, which has just taken on the EU’s rotating presidency, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn. The European VIPs attended the Bulgarian event after earlier taking part in Romania’s celebrations.
The accession of the poor ex-communist duo raises the EU’s membership to 27 states – almost half of them former eastern bloc countries once cut off from the West by the Iron Curtain. Fresh opportunities to live and work abroad legally are greatly prized in the two new EU nations.
But one Romanian man interviewed said that until their financial possibilities are the same as other EU members, their freedom “is like a bird without wings.” A woman expressed hopes that Romanians new status will end prejudice they have felt as European Union outsiders. But, although travel may now be easier, Romanians and Bulgarians will still face strict work restrictions in Britain and many other EU countries.