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20th Jan 2020

Verheugen slams EU states for lack of debate on enlargement

  • "Only at the present time has there been an in-depth debate on EU enlargement in the member states", Mr Verheugen said (Photo: European Commission)

EU governments have not done enough to inform citizens about enlargement and the new EU citizens are paying the price with restrictions on their movement around the Union - that was the message today from one of the project's principle architects.

Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen today rapped EU state governments for not informing their citizens about EU enlargement, as EU states took measures to restrict access to the labour market weeks before the 1 May.

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"There is a certain uneasiness that accompanies this enlargement", Mr Verheugen said this morning in the European parliament - it has spurred fears of an influx of migrants from the poorer EU entrants.

"We cannot close our eyes to the fact that only at the present time has there been an in-depth debate on EU enlargement in the member states".

"I have said for years that we need to have our citizens on board in this process, it is too late now at the eleventh hour", he added.

"The political elites in the Member States should have done more to transmit the essence of this historic project to the citizens and the people".

The vast majority of EU member states have announced that they intend to restrict movement of citizens from central and eastern Europe - many doing so after domestic pressure.

The countries introducing barriers for workers were urged to closely study real migratory patterns and to abolish these barriers to free movement as soon as possible.

Steps still need to be taken

During the discussion, Irish Minister for Europe, Dick Roche, called on the newly acceding Member States "to continue their efforts for the final two months until accession".

"It goes without saying that the more work is done now, the quicker the newly acceding Member States can benefit fully from membership", he said.

Parliamentarians will tomorrow vote on a report on the countries' readiness to join the EU.

The report highlights persisting deficiencies in veterinary control in some countries and the need for improvements in the security of the external borders of the enlarged EU.

Commissioner Verheugen said that there are still problems in the modernisation of food enterprises and public health, and made it clear to the new EU entrants that "in the area of food safety we will not allow any compromises".

MEPs called on the Lithuanian authorities to keep up their fight against illegal trafficking and organised crime, and stressed that special attention should be paid to the Kaliningrad-Lithuanian border.

A warning signal was also sent to Turkey, which hopes to start accession negotiations with the EU soon. In the report, MEPs state their agreement with the Commission’s political assessment that a failure to reach agreement on Cyprus could pose a serious obstacle to Turkey’s EU ambitions.

Roma communities

Concern was also expressed about the situation of Roma communities in some of the acceding countries, particularly in Slovakia.

The Green-EFA group in the European parliament is calling on the Commission to continue to supervise Slovakia after its accession in order to reduce discrimination and improve the situation of the Roma.

The President of the European Roma Information Office, Miranda Vulosantra said on Wednesday that the Roma in Slovakia are exposed to marginalisation and exclusion.

She also mentioned that the recent cut in social benefits has badly hit the Roma, particularly since they face discrimination in access to the labour market.

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