Changes in the European Union, 2007

Every new calendar year brings about changes in the European Union which affect those who travel there regularly.

My favorite change is the addition of two more countries to Europe’s non-smoking club. Ireland was the first country to ban smoking in public places a few years ago, followed by Italy, Malta and Sweden. As of the first of the year, Belgium and Lithuania have followed in their footsteps. France, England and Finland will “toughen up their restrictions” as well this year according to an article on Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Portugal remain the smoky stalwarts, and the place to go for all you nicotine fiends out there.

2007 also brings the arrival of two new countries into the EU: Bulgaria and Romania. It will be a long time before the Euro is officially accepted in these backwater, post-communist regions, but citizens rejoiced on New Year’s with the realization that it will happen some time in the next decade.

Slovenians, on the other hand, celebrated New Year’s by extracting Euros out of local ATMs. This small post-communist country, once part of Yugoslavia, is the first post-communist country to officially change over to the Euro. Nine other post-communist countries joined the EU in 2004 along with Slovenia, but only Slovenia has been able to meet the economic requirements necessary to switch over to the Euro. This is great news for travelers tired of changing currencies. The bad news, however, is that both residents and tourists fear this will result in an increase in prices. Considering Slovenia is already one of the most expensive post-communist countries to visit, this is not a welcome prediction.