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EU President Sees Higher Job Competition

30 April 2004 -- European Commission President Romano Prodi says the "old" members of the European Union are likely to face competition for jobs after the addition of new members on 1 May.

Prodi said the entry of central European nations with well educated work forces could bring an employment shake up across the union.

But European leaders have been praising the EU's biggest-ever expansion, from 15 to 25 members.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the EU will be fulfilling "a historic mission."

"The vision will now become reality. It is very important for Europe to finally overcome its painful division and we, the generation of politicians making decisions today, have the unique chance to change this Europe, the whole of Europe, into a place of lasting peace and prosperity for our people," Reuters quoted Schroeder as saying.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, also lauded the enlargement as a major step toward "freedom and democracy" in Europe.

Fireworks and the raising of star-studded blue EU flags were expected to mark midnight festivities in the new member countries.

(Compiled from wire reports)