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Brussels, Sofia, Bucharest...

Peter van Dyk | 17:51 UK time, Wednesday, 20 September 2006

...and London, which is where I am. So welcome to our EU accession special, which Richard has been working on for some time. He's in Bucharest with our audience there, while Priya is with our guests in Sofia and Ros is in charge of the discussion from Brussels.

You can read emails and text messages here, and of course post your own comments as well. And if you're torn between emailing or posting on the blog, please post a comment here as it's more likely to make it on to the site.

Laura in Bucharest and Dimirty in Sofia

In Brussels, Ros was joined by Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party in the European Parliament and Alexander Stubb, a Finnish MEP who belongs to the centre right coalition in the European parliament, and Oana Lungescu, the BBC's Brussels Correspondent.

She said that she would bet on both Romania and Bulgaria joining on January 1, 2007 - but with much tougher conditions than previous entrants.

Nigel Farage said that Romanians and Bulgarians should regard joining the EU with trepidation as their best young people would move west, and that they were taking jobs from young Britons.

Alexander Stubb said that economic studies showed that the migration of easterners had benefitted western Europe.

Justin emailed to say that "with Romania and Bulgaria joining the EU it's just one more great addition to a great organization itself… We will definitely be better off. Brussels, let em in…"

Dimitry said he was surprised to hear Nigel's "strangely old-fashioned and nationalistic" views when hundreds of Britons were buying property in the east.

Nigel repsonded that politics and economics were two separate things and it's possible - and better - to join Europe economically and stay separate politically, as the EU was a brake on economic progress.
In Bulgaria, Zornitsa said it would be dangerous not to join, but she said prices would go up in the short term but wages would take longer to catch up so there would be economic pain initially.

Deyan in Sofia said it was obvious that there were people who didn't want to join but that in five years things would be better within the EU than without.

Marinescu said the reality is Europe must be a united nation.

Ros asked if anyone was worried that teachers and doctors would leave.

Monica in Romania said that they wouldn't leave permanently - educated people could earn good money and people studying abroad would come home.

Zornitsa said the people who would leave Bulgaria had already left.

Oana in Brussels said that there is already a brain drain - the second biggest group of employees at Microsoft in the US after Indians is Romanians.

Gary in Belfast asked in an email: "Do the people on the show realise the majority of Britons would vote to leave the European Union?"

Dima sent a text to say "Let Ukraine come in." He's in... Ukraine.

Ashlee in Jamaica says: I think the European Union has been a great idea. With many wary of America's hegemony many in disenfranchished regions of the world are now looking towards Europe for its leadership. Europeans cannot afford to back pedal or give in to skepticism of the EU and its expansion.

An emailer asked if Romania and Bulgaria were ready to join. Ros put that to the audiences.

Marcel in Romania said that economically, the EU must let the two countries join because the continent needed to be unified

Nigel said that whether they're ready is irrelevant - it's a political decision. Pressed by Ros, he doubted it very much.

Alexander said a country was ready when it joins - no country was ready when they joined, not Spain, Portugal or even Finland.

Cameron called in from Birmingham and said that limited cultural ties meant that people from Romania and Bulgaria might not come to Britain.

Oana pointed out that that was why Romanians and Bulgarians might move to Italy and Spain.

Laura in Romania said that cultural aspects were the easiest part of joining the EU - people were learning languages and travelling more.

Adrain in Romania said the point was cultural diversity - there may be differences between Romania and Britain but also between Britain and Spain.

Monica said Cameron would be surprised how many Romanians speak English and other languages.

Valentina called in from Germany - she said everyone was talking about whether Romania and Bulgaria were ready, but not about the EU being ready to accept them. They were still struggling with the previous enlargement.

Alexander in Brussels said that the new countries were an example and had carried out reforms ahead of older members.

Valentina said the EU should therefore fix its own problems first.

Kathryn in Atlanta:

EU is a wonderful concept just like the original US. just like the US human nature will cause discord.

Victor in Greece asked where the EU would stop.

Dan in Romania said that all the countries in Europe should join. The common market would grow and it would benefit everyone. Alexander said the EU should stop at its clear natural borders, including Iceland, Turkey and the Balkans.

Sorry Dima, he didn't include Ukraine.

Ricky from Arizona emailed:

I believe Bulgaria and Romania is ready, i've been there, lived there and it's time for a change. All my best to all the great people and workers there.

Paul, a Brit in Barcelona who has lived out side of the UK for 21 years:

I'm not an expat but a migrant worker and I appreciate the European open borders. One thing I would like to warn the Bulgarians and Romanians about will be the culture shock of the cheap flights; Every Friday night hoards of Brits will be landing for stag / hen nights and will be singing and dancing in the streets until their make themselves sick - I live in Barcelona and speak from experience.

John in Jamaica

All this talk about expansion. The EU already has the problem of agreeing on a constitution. Everyone is signing on to phantom group with no clear directions. The only thing which I really see happening is an expansion of this unilateral border, without telling people what exactly they are getting into. Everyone has their own ideals, i.e. what benefits they see, what are the cons....but what is the EU's actual position on the pros and cons of joining?

Ros finished by asking how the audience in Sofia and Bucharest how they expected to feel if and when they join.

Zornitsa in Bulgaria said it will be a let down - but it would be a greater let down if they don't join.

Marinescu in Romania is sure his life will be better - and sure his daughter's life will be very very good.

That's it for the programme, but here are more of your comments:

Charles, Krakow

I'm willing to bet there's at least ONE Polish janitor working for the BBC!

Alex in London

Don't worry about how big the European Union gets. It is a force for good in the world and should be nurtured. Life for the average European Union is far better than for those on the outside of our wonderfully humanist project!

Yusuf in Nigeria

I feel Romania and Bulgaria should join the EU because a strong and unified Europe could really do well in stabilizing global politics.

Kongnley, Freetown

Even though the AU exists the continent is still backward, corrupt and plagued with war.

Peter, Zimbabwe.

The African Union is a sad joke that can't be compared to the EU. To join the AU a country has only to be African, full stop!

Ben, Nigeria

The doors of the EU should be flung open to all continental European nations, east or west. Only Turkey must be kept out.

Ray, Zimbabwe

Russia has more to gain by joining the EU. On other hand it becomes difficult to make them conform to EU laws.

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