What changes in the EU as from today

On 9 July 2013 the EU Council gave its green light to the adoption of the euro by Latvia on 1 January 2014. Latvians queued after Tuesday after midnight to get their first euro notes. (EC Audiovisual Services 01/01/2014).

On 9 July 2013 the EU Council gave its green light to the adoption of the euro by Latvia on 1 January 2014. Latvians queued after Tuesday midnight to get their first euro notes. (EC Audiovisual Services 01/01/2014).

As from today, first working day of the New Year 2014 in the European Union, the Latvians start using the euro in their daily transactions, the Romanians and the Bulgarians can reside and work in every other EU member state without a special permit and the Greeks assume the Presidency of the EU, representing all the 28 countries within and without the Union. All these developments have been planned and of course were expected to happen long before today and consequently they are not news, but surely they are bound to create news soon.

New student in the euro class

Starting from the North, where Latvia introduced today the use of the physical EU single currency, it seems that not everybody is happy with that. The acceptance of the euro by the Latvians responding positively or negatively in relevant pools has been steadily decreasing during the last three years. Obviously, the financial crisis that hit Eurozone in 2008-2009 is at the heart of the disenchantment of Latvians with the euro. According to recent polls, the Latvians in favour of the introduction of the euro in their country are only slightly more that those who now oppose it.

The obligation to help the ailing Eurozone economies, stemming from the participation in the euro area, must be the base of this negative development. Of course Latvia itself received ample EU support after the financial crisis of 2008 hit the country. However, consecutive Riga governments made good use of it and managed to bring their country in a Eurozone worthy shape.

Understandably, there is no back step now and Latvia will be the 18th member state of the euro money club. “On behalf of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB), I welcome this further enlargement of the euro area. Latvia has earned its position as an integrated part of the Economic and Monetary Union”, said yesterday Mario Draghi, President of the ECB.

The Romanians and Bulgarians are coming

Going a lot southwards, today marks the lifting of the last restrictions on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania. From today, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens are able to fully exercise their right to work in all EU countries without a work permit. In fact, Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have already been free to work without restrictions in 19 countries. As a result there are over 3 million people from Bulgaria and Romania already living in other Member States. The EU Commission says that “it is unlikely that there will be any major increase following the ending of the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers”.

Restrictions were in force for a number of core EU member states like Britain, Germany and France. Despite the reassurances by the Commission that there won’t be a noticeable movement of Romanians and Bulgarian workers moving towards other EU countries like Britain, many members of the club have been preparing to counter the phenomenon of ‘social benefits tourism’.

For example, the British government rushed to change the rules for the granting of the ‘looking for a job’ benefit. In Germany, the choice of measures to counter the possible influx of Romanian and Bulgarian workers has already presented the first problems in the grand coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU with the socialists of SPD. Some conservative Christian democrats ask for similar measures like the ones introduced by Britain.

Again a Greek EU Presidency

Last but not least, the change at the head of the EU, with the transfer of the Council Presidency from Lithuania to Greece doesn’t mean a lot. The Commission, the EU Council and the Parliament bureaucratic services are well equipped to offer the needed support. On top of that, this is the fifth EU Presidency that Greece is assuming. Not to forget that during the last one, the euro was introduced physically and eight more countries joined the EU in the largest ever massive enlargement of the club. Of course, today, Athens is under pressure to cover the final part of a long austerity programme that threatens the social and political stability of the country. But as many Eurozone ministers of Finance have said recently, Europe won’t let Greece down.

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