I have been a bit slow commenting on the agreement by the EU to permit the entry of Bulgaria and Romania on January 1st 2007.
Of course I welcome these new countries. However since the big bang entry in 2004, much has changed in the EU.
The failure of the constitutional treaty has created strains, but in fact a variable geometry Europe now exists in all but name. Several countries are opted out of the currency or the Schengen agreement, some are members of Schengen but not eh EU as a whole.
Europe is turning from an table d'hote menu into an a la carte.
For this reason, I am unhappy hearing the Commission suggesting that enlargement should now take a break. In fact there is no excuse to exclude Croatia right now. As for the other Western Balkan countries- surely the lesson of the past two decades is that the Union should increase its engagement with the region. Not to disengage and leave it to drift.
With the thorny question of final status for Kosova still very much on the agenda, the strains are mounting- and Europe had better be very clear as to what it expects form both Serbs and Albanians.
At least with the entry of two countries that are very much comparable with the ex-YU countries, the populations of Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Albania can know that membership will happen one day.
Meanwhile with the EU on its border, perhaps the people of poor Moldova will begin to find their feet- let's hope so.