The Czech Republic was one of the ten, mostly former communist countries to join the EU last May, a move few Czechs could have dreamt of just two decades ago. So, how do Czechs evaluate their first year in the EU?
Communicating the New Europe: Margot Wallström
Brussels suffers from an image problem. In order to better communicate the concept of ”Europe” to its citizens, the European Commission’s new President, Jose Barroso, created a new post. In the hot seat - Sweden’s Margot Wallström, the EU Commission’s Vice-President in charge of communication.
“Wage Dumping” Woes
Many German industries feared a sharp drop in wages as a result of EU expansion. Already a problem in the construction sector, cheap labour from Poland and Hungary has also become an issue in the meatpacking and metalworking industries. On Wednesday, the German Cabinet agreed to introduce a bill to stop the employment of foreign workers at wages undercutting German employees.
EU Farmers, Look East!
Since the 1st May of last year, some 90,000 Poles have sought and found jobs in the UK, Ireland and Sweden, the three countries that have opened up their labour markets to job seekers from the new EU member states. But the traffic is not all one-way. A growing number of Dutch farmers are arriving in Poland to make a living, because as they say, no more land is available for young farmers back home.
Cultural Melting Pot or Homogenization?
One of the concerns raised by a number of citizens in the ten accession countries was that their respective languages and culture would be washed away in the enlarged union. But European treaties and the proposed European constitution guarantee cultural diversity and the respect of twenty European national languages. A year on, EU membership has provided the ten new member states with opportunities to showcase and export their culture across the continent.
Next up, Romania and Bulgaria
EU enlargement is not over. In 2007, Romania and Bulgaria are expected to join. This week, the two Balkan candidates signed an accession treaty at a ceremony in Luxembourg, which currently holds the EU presidency. In Romania, the signing of the historic document was met with enthusiasm. But in Bucharest, more and more people are beginning to understand that the path to EU accession will be no easy ride.
Closing Music: “99 red balloons” Nena