Nowadays it is often alleged that the European Union’s sense of solidarity was put in jeopardy, if not shattered outright, by its enlargement to take in the countries of central and eastern Europe. As Bulgaria and Romania come closer to membership, and with accession talks with Turkey and Croatia set to begin, it has become increasingly important to challenge that view.
The values and interests of the EU’s newest member states coincide in most ways with those of the 15 earlier members. It is, of course, true that enlargement has fundamentally changed the Union and given rise to new problems and policy concerns. But the new member states in central and eastern Europe are deeply embedded in the economic, social, and cultural development of our Continent. The ties that bind us together were frayed by forty years of Soviet domination, but this did not fundamentally change these states’ European character.