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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007, 16:36 GMT
The EU at 50: Your reflections
The flags of the European Union
The EU is 50 on 25 March
The European Union is celebrating its 50th anniversary on 25 March - the date when the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957.

Four BBC News website readers - aged 25 to 50 - share their experiences and feelings after half a century of the Union.

GERD HILDEBRANDT, 50, IT CONSULTANT, COLOGNE, GERMANY

Gerd Hilderbrandt
The EU helps ensure peace between nations, says Gerd
My first long-distance motorbike trip in 1982 led me through Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Spain all the way down to Portugal.

For each country I had to provide a different currency, each border crossing involved waiting and showing my papers.

If you imagine me wearing a helmet, gloves, motorcycle gear and waterproofs, you can see how inconvenient it was.

This trip would be so different today. It would be like visiting a different planet.

I'm sure the level of peace and prosperity we enjoy today has come about from the existence of the EU
I could drive all the way down to the Algarve with just a credit card and some euros.

The EU has made it easier to work between countries. I work as an IT consultant and travel several times a year to places such as Britain and France.

Open borders and the single currency just make the whole process much easier.

I'm sure the level of peace and prosperity we enjoy today has come about, at least in part, from the existence of the EU.

Our large common market underpins our wealth. I'm sure that several separate countries would find it much harder to compete in a world market.

The union helps to ensure peace between nations.

Gerd Hilderbrandt in 1982
Gerd wishes he could do his 1982 bike ride again
I grew up in post-war Germany shattered by conflict, in a city still full of rubble. It was not a dream or a movie. War was real to me.

There are downsides to Brussels. For me, it is bloated, too bureaucratic.

I am sure this entity wastes a huge amount of money that I end up paying for with my taxes.

And I believe we should concentrate on solving the problems faced by our existing 27 members before embracing new entrants.

But, for me, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Now, if only I had time to do that bike trip today!

CORINNE ONETTO, 25, FUNDRAISER, LONDON, UK

Corinne
Corinne is a huge fan of the single currency
As the daughter of a French father and English mother I sometimes feel like a product of the new EU.

When I talk to my parents, we often think about how different their experience was to that of me and my brother.

They married in the 70s, and my mother often recalls how shocked some of her friends where when they discovered she was marrying a Frenchman!

It must have been an interesting wedding - split down the middle with all Anglophones on one side and all French speakers on the other.

As a kid, I do remember being the outsider - the English kid in France, the French kid in England.

As a young person, I like the fact I can live in Madrid tomorrow if I want to
But by the time I was a teenager I didn't feel this was the case. I noticed more children with parents from two different countries.

I like to think this was partly the nature of the EU bringing people together.

Two years ago I decided to move to London to work. Partly because of my heritage and also because of the opportunities I wouldn't have found in Paris.

Being able to do this easily, despite having a French passport, is the perfect example of why the EU matters.

When my dad came to live in Britain, his life was much more complex. In those days he was also seen as being "exotic" being a Frenchman in the UK.

I'm also a huge fan of the single currency. I've lived in Spain as well, as my French grandparents live there. It has just made my life so much easier.

There are examples of over-regulation. But generally I think the EU has really helped our lives.

As a young person of no fixed nationality, I like the fact I can live in Madrid tomorrow if I want to.

MARCIN SZKLARSKI, 25, ECONOMIST, GDANSK, POLAND

Marcin Szklarski
Marcin says Poland has changed quickly since 2004
I've just graduated and have found a good job thanks to the EU.

A large international company opened an office in my city and I'm now employed as an economist.

I work with people from about 20 different countries and the culture is very open and collaborative.

I doubt this chance would have come up if Poland wasn't an EU member. I think being part of Europe definitely makes it easier to achieve your goals and get a well-paid job.

There are far more opportunities for people now. I worked briefly in Norway - as a translator for a group of Polish welders - and nearly everyone I know has a friend or relative working abroad.

Poland has changed quickly since 2004 and lots of foreign companies are investing by opening call-centres and new offices.

In 100 years, historians will look back at this era as a great achievement
I think that this is one of the main benefits of the EU - it helps a country grow and become more prosperous.

However, one frustrating thing is that property prices have increased dramatically and I can't afford to buy anything - not even with credit.

My brother's house has nearly doubled in value in the last few years. It's the same story in many areas of Poland.

Generally I'm in favour of EU enlargement, but of course there has to be a limit at some stage.

I studied Croatian at university and I think we should let them join. In fact, they are probably better prepared economically than Romania and Bulgaria.

I think many countries outside Europe envy the success of the Union.

In 100 years, historians will look back at this era as a great achievement. We should be proud.

DRITON MALIQI, 29, WAITER, PRISHTINA, KOSOVO

Driton
Driton feels the EU is not good for those on the outside
The EU may be good for those countries inside the club, but for us - on the outside - it's as if they have built a great wall all around the union.

Before 1990, we people of the ex-Yugoslavia could travel to Western Europe without visas. The same is not true now.

EU leaders speak about freedom every day. But I can't go back to the UK, where I once lived and worked.

I left my country during the troubles in 1998 and ended up in England.

I still have fond memories of the country - from the moment I arrived and had my first cup of tea with milk.

I ended up working for Leeds City Council as a translator for the Kosovan refugees.

I am planning to move to Canada because I've had enough of this so-called EU
For many of us who worked on the project, it was the best job we have ever had.

But my asylum application was eventually refused. Despite all of the work I had done for country, I had to leave. That broke my heart.

For me, nationalism isn't important. What matters is being able to have a good job, to be able to have a good life

Here in Kosovo it is hard to find work, even voluntary jobs. Despite my experience as a translator and then as an administrator in the UK, I am a waiter here. And I feel it is impossible to get a visa for the UK.

I feel we are not wanted by this family of Europe.

Some people say Kosovo may join the EU in 2020, but this really seems like a dream to us now.

I am planning to move to Canada because I think I have had enough of this so-called EU.





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