The EU is at last about to unite the Baltic with the Black Sea, fulfilling years of hype about enlargement. But this momentous event - the signature of the EU Accession Treaty with Bulgaria and Romania - is to take place in the cloistered seclusion of a desanctified abbey in Luxembourg, almost as if the aim were to keep it secret.

The contrast could not be more marked with the ceremonial signature of the Accession Treaty for the ten new member states in Athens in April 2003. Then, bursting with optimism, heads of state and government from across the EU converged at the foot of the Acropolis for a major public celebration, culminating in a European Conference of 40 European countries.

Enlargement fatigue may partially explain the discretion over this latest expansion. Heady excitement has given way to some hard-headed assessments of the costs: Germany and Austria are publicly counting how many jobs they claim to have lost to immigrant workers from the new member states; and negotiating a new EU budget as Spain and Poland squabble over funds is revealing the harsh realities of a bigger EU.

The EU's recent commitment to open accession talks with Turkey has thrown a further shadow over the entire enlargement process. Serious reservations over this step are now echoing insistently through several member...

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