Tuesday, May 09, 2006

It's Europe Day

Which is the anniversary of the proposal to create the EEC, the forerunner of the Union. Bertie Ahern has kicked off the celebrations with a completely sensible set of concerns about the next round of enlargement -- the admission of Bulgaria and Romania sometime next year. Now Bertie's caution is a welcome contrast to the Euro-blarney that greeted the entrance of the previous ten, including Seamus Heaney poetry, with the inevitable backlash culminating in the EU referendum defeat in France last year, also marked by Seamus Heaney poetry.

In particular, the case for admission for Romania was going to be difficult, and Bertie now wants to see the immigration policies of the existing EU members towards the new ones before he opens the door in Ireland, as he did for the previous round:

Asked about his attitude to allowing Romanians and Bulgarians an automatic right to work in Ireland when their countries join the EU, he said the Government would "look at that carefully at the time".

"We haven't made up our minds yet and as I said recently I'd like to see the other countries doing what we did before we made up our mind on that," he said.

Both Bulgaria and Romania had been expecting a decision by the European Commission next week on whether they are ready to join the EU on January 1st, 2007. But Commission sources said yesterday that enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn is preparing to delay until the autumn a final recommendation on when the states should join.

With the census expected to show 10% of the population being immigrants, and nearly all of the 1st round of labour absorption in the last round being done by 3 countries -- Ireland, the UK, and Sweden -- it stands to reason that the government will want to move carefully this time. One might also hope that the EU would use the leverage of admission with Bulgaria and Romania to get information about CIA detention facilities, but that's probably too much to hope for. Especially as any flights to these facilities may well have stopped at Shannon.