I think it is great that former members of the Soviet Bloc have been able to join the European Union as an alternative to continuing to be dictated to by Russia.
Russia still does have an influence by the supply of gas and its ability to withhold it, as has happened. Russia also arranged a large scale migration of ethnic Russians to the Baltic States during their time within the USSR and this is still a cause of friction and perhaps implied threat. We should be very ready to support the Balts from an escalation of such a threat even though it would be difficult for us.
A downside of the liberation of eastern Europe has been the finance. Financial concerns from the west bought up a lot of the industry and real estate of the new member countries. Also citizens of those countries took out mortgages to buy property in their own countries denominated in Swiss Francs, Swedish Krona and Japanese Yen all of which had attractive low rates of interest and tolerable exchange rates only to get into difficulties with their repayments when the rates rose and the exchange rate became unfavourable leading to bankruptcies and further foreign buy ups, as I understand it.
I think their dreams of life in the west developed a bitter edge through this experience.
The new accession countries (ie eastern europe, Cyprus and Malta) are developing fast in monetary terms and concerning the probity of public service. The gradient between rich and poor EU members led to a lot of people migrating west but this seems to be stabilising.
There is still crime and trafficking of people as a result of poverty in the east within and beyond EU borders and this continues to need to be addressed.
Let’s welcome the newer arrivals into the business of creating a political community as described for the initial 15 nations.
Croatia is due to join the EU in 2013. Macedonia, Montenegro, Turkey and Iceland are candidates for membership. The benefit of membership is a good incentive for improvement of the national institutions in the Balkans and in Turkey while Iceland’s banking sector needs to be more clear before entry. Turkey’s application is controversial with UK for it and much of the rest of the EU against and I think she needs to side more clearly with western ways of life before being accepted.