Ambassador Dimitrov, Ambassador Paleologu, Ladies and Gentlemen
Less than a month ago, on the 1st of January 2007,Romania and Bulgaria became members of the European Union. This certainly calls for celebration. It is a very happy moment for Bulgaria and Romania and for Europe as a whole.
It was at the Copenhagen Summit in 2002 that it was decided that Bulgaria and Romania along with ten other European nations should become members of the European Union within only a few years. I cannot help but take pride in that fact. This historic decision marked the final healing of Europe after the end of the Cold War.
As members of the European Union, Romania and Bulgaria are now regaining their rightful place in the European family of nations.
Like other candidate countries Romania and Bulgaria have experienced that the road to EU membership is not easy. Accession takes great determination and hard work.
But I must warn you: so does membership.
Some would say that the really hard work starts once membership has been achieved. In that sense accession is not like an exam after which one can relax. I would rather compare it to a wedding followed by married life.
The wedding is a party. But then comes marriage - the everyday life and companionship. It is committing. It is probably productive and fruitful. It is hopefully great fun at times. But it is not always easy. And it doesn’t work without common values and clear common rules.
The hard work, which comes with membership of course, has to do with the character of the EU itself. The European Union is much more than an international organisation. It is about close, institutionalised and committing cooperation. It is about integration.
The European Union does not only produce statements and declarations like most international organisations. The European Union opens borders and produces detailed legislation common to all Member States, which in turn produces prosperity and solidarity throughout the European continent. This is quite unique. And it does require a very special degree of commitment.
The one thing, which really defines the European Union, however - is that it is a community of values. The members of the European Union share a basic set of values, which are at the core of our cooperation. Values which unite Danes, Bulgarians, and Romanians, as well as Germans, French, British and all other Europeans. It is democracy. It is civil liberties and human rights. And it is the rule of law. These common values are at the centre of European Union membership.
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Bulgaria and Romania are entering the EU at a crucial point in our history. Fundamental questions for the future of the Union are on the table for debate. How do we ensure that the European Union can take up the challenges of globalisation? How do we make the Union work effectively with 27 members or more? And how do we make sure that the European cooperation works to the benefit of the Europeans – and indeed is seen that way?
These are some of the questions which we will address in the coming year as we look for a solution to the issue of the new EU treaty. It will be a great challenge to engineer a solution which will be acceptable to all. But we must not fail. We – the citizens of Europe – need a European Union which can face up to the challenges of the 21st century and deliver concrete results. I look forward to cooperating closely with Romania and Bulgaria and other Member States in the coming year find an agreement on a new EU treaty.
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In the autumn of last year I had the pleasure of visiting both Romania and Bulgaria. It was my clear impression that in the years to come Bulgaria and Romania will have still more to offer to the EU, as they continue to build on the results of past reforms, and as their economies develop further. Both Romania and Bulgaria play important regional roles in South Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region. And both countries are strong supporters of the transatlantic cooperation that is essential if we are to handle the great economic and foreign policy challenges of our time.
I am therefore confident that Bulgaria’s and Romania’s EU membership will be of great benefit - not only to Bulgaria and Romania - but also to the rest of the European Union. And I look forward to a close and fruitful companionship in the years to come.
With these words, ambassadors, let me conclude by raising my glass to Bulgaria and Romania – and to your accession to the European Union!