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SLUG: 2-315524 E-U Expansion / Formalities (L)

DATE= 5/1/2004






INTRO: Leaders of the newly enlarged European Union have gathered in Dublin to formally welcome the 10 new members from eastern and central Europe and the Mediterranean. V-O-A's Roger Wilkison reports on the official ceremony that followed home celebrations in all the new member states.

TEXT: The leaders of the E-U's new members, for the first time, sat down as equals among their counterparts from the established members of the bloc at a special summit in Dublin.

Ireland, which holds the E-U's rotating presidency, is hosting what its government calls a "day of welcomes" for the newcomers into what has now become the world's biggest trading bloc, with 455 million people.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern hailed what he called a day of hope and opportunity for the new members, most of which are former communist countries that have undergone painful economic and social reforms so that they could meet the bloc's requirements for membership.


It was your democratic choice and your own efforts that made this day happen. Today marks the triumph of your determination and perseverance over the legacy of history. Over the past years, you have been knocking on the door of Europe's biggest family. Today we open it and, in the great Irish tradition, bid you a "cead mile failte" - a hundred, thousand welcomes.


Although the emphasis in Dublin was on the inclusion of the 10 new members in a common zone of peace, democracy and prosperity, the E-U's biggest ever expansion has raised difficult questions for the bloc.

Some wonder if the E-U will be able to make decisions with 25 different countries sitting around the table. Mr. Ahern argues that now, more than ever, the union needs a constitution to underpin its institutions and prevent paralysis. He hopes the members can agree on such a document by next month.

Despite Saturday's celebrations, many incoming E-U members are angry at restrictions on the free movement of workers from their countries that have been adopted by most of the western E-U members.

For their part, some of the older members are anxious about the flight of jobs and investment to the eastern countries and their cheap labor markets. But others say that the entry of 75-million consumers from the new members has to be good for business throughout the continent. (signed)


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