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European Quest: More of your views

Richard Quest answers your e-mails as he travels across Europe.
Send your comments and questions to Richard Quest at
Richard Quest
• Overview: Time of change
• Timeline: WWII to present
• Map: EU membership

(CNN) -- For two weeks, Richard Quest and his team are traveling around countries about to join the European Union on May 1. We asked for your views. Richard's replies are in italics.

I live in Germany, an Englishman in Munich. Many of my friends here are worried about the influx of cheap labor from the new members of EU. Whilst many measures may stop this fear ... there is still the labor black market and also the definite increase in child labor and prostitution. Many Germans travel to these countries for cheap medical treatments as well as cheaper goods and services. Do you think there will be a huge price increase in these areas and will it be passed to the people or will the poor/rich gap grow bigger? My biggest fear is the security of these countries. Will they be a back door to non-member countries? Will the UK etc. find themselves with a greater problem of illegal immigrants or terrorists? Karl Pemberton, Munich

Richard replies: Let me take your questions one at a time: 1. Black/informal labour market. Cynics say all that will happen is that the illegals become legal. Under the new EU, The transition arrangements in existing countries are designed to prevent those travelling without jobs. No doubt many will travel without and become de factor illegal workers in other countries but the numbers are likely to be much less than forcast . 2. I have read a lot about price increases but still no-one has managed to explain to me WHY this is likely to happen. Because any price increases that do filter through will probably in time be countered by competition. (yes, EU social programmes and regulations will add some costs to employers etc but this is vastly overstated b the EU's critics.) This is NOT like the introduction of the EURO when there was huge potential for price gouging. These countries are already operating as democratic, capitalist economies and the entry to the single market should keep prices under control, not the other way round 3. The EU has spend hundreds of millions of Euro's helping the new countries secure their borders. And bluntly. Probably much more will need to be spent. Which is why it wil still be some years before the new countries can join Schengen (the bordless internal EU) So you will still need passports when travelling between the New countries and the Old EU. The border problem is being solved, but is probably not there yet.

There is a lot of concern about people in the new EU states moving westward for better jobs. What about people in the West moving eastward? I first moved to Estonia in 8 years ago in May '96 and loved it. I went back to Washington D.C. for a job from April 2002 and returned to Tallinn in August 2003. My job is the same as it was in D.C. ... but my standard of living is higher and lifestyle is much better here. You wouldn't believe the difference between my flat in Georgetown and here in Tallinn. I know of many people who left their life in the U.S., UK and Australia for the Baltics and several more that are trying. Now that you have spent some time in the Baltics, Czech, Hungary, Slovenia and the others, do you think there will more of a trend of Westerners moving here for a more relaxed lifestyle now that these countries are part of the EU? Nagemist ("so long" in Estonian), Chuck Czepyha, Tallinn

Richard replies: No I don't think there will be dramatic movement back east. Sure, some people will make the move back east but not in significant numbers. Perhaps it is short sighted, but the perception is still that life will be better in the west. That will change but not overnight. While I am on immigration. I don't also believe the numbers immigrating to the western countries will be anything like as dramatic as some suggest. I believe over time people will use the EU as a genuine opportunity for advancement, experience and furtherance of trade, business and exchange. But simply moving to London or Frankfurt or Paris to get a better job -- they will rapidly discover that a menial job in those higher-cost cities brings a much lower standard of living than they are used to back home.

When you get to Poland, you will get to the heart of EU expansion -- half of the accession land area, population and GDP in one country, the rest in the other 9. Some Europeans find Poland hard to take -- ready to deploy troops, a good friend of the U.S. and not prepared to be bossed around by the Paris-Bonn axis. The economy is starting to boom again, the weather is warm and 10,000 police officers are waiting for guests to arrive at the European Economic Summit. Enjoy. Tony Housh, Warsaw

Richard replies: And those 10,000 police officers, with their dozens of vans, water canons and armoured vehicles dissuaded anyone from causing trouble. The place is like a fortress. You can't get near the forum and frankly, it is depressing. I understand why they have to be there (Genoa, Prague, Seattle all showed what can happen) but none-the-less it leaves you feeling so much for the system when you have to hold a forum like this virtually behind barbed wires and where the city centre has literally shut down. The people I've met here in Warsaw wished the whole thing had been held somewhere else. As for Poland.....clearly the new big-boy on the EU block. Look to the country to flex muscles much more either on its own or as self-appointed spokesman for the new entrants. It is probably the only country with sufficient mass to stand up to the other EU toughies and not look silly.

Wonder why you didn't visit Slovenia as well. You'd be pleasantly surprised, especially if you took a trip to our beautiful places like Bled or Bohinj. There you can rent a plane and check the beautiful scenery from the bird's perspective. I'm always amused to hear your comments about other countries and I really wonder what you'd say about mine. Bostjan

Richard replies: I wish we had been able to visit Slovenia, but time simply ran out. It's a poor excuse I know, but merely gives me a better opportunity to visit in the future.

It was a very hard-fought battle for Malta to join the EU. There was a strong "No" camp, though their base was not really sound. In the end democracy prevailed, and next Saturday we will be part of the EU. I think that your showing Malta on the program would help in more ways than one. Ian Grech

Richard replies: CNN's European Political Editor, Robin Oakley has visited Malta and his reports have been airing over the past week including looking at those very subjects, the democratic vote for entry, the future for the Euro, and yersterday, he looked at the plight of birds in Malta.

What do you think of the UK position in the EU? Should the UK leave? The UK has been nothing but a thorn in the EU integration efforts by Chirac and Schroeder. Yung Chenlin

Richard replies: I 'aint touching this one with a ten foot pole ! Yes, as British subject, I will vote in the referendum promised by Tony Blair on the new EU consitution, due to be held next year sometime. But I want to see the final constitution and hear more arguments first. One thought I will offer: the so-called anti-european feeling in Britain is more often than not directed at the EC and its institutions not at the EU as a whole. It s a feeling that federalism is not the best way forward for countries like Britain. As Tony Blair has made clear the referendum to be held will be in reality a vote on Britain's role in the EU. I know many feel the UK is obstructionist, but I suspect that is just how some in Britain want to be seen.

Your decidedly British sense of humor is oft quite entertaining for this world-traveling Yank. However, could you have possibly waited any bloody longer to visit central and eastern Europe? It's a darn shame you didn't pay a visit to the region a decade or more ago. Sadly, the opportunity to draw dramatic comparisons between today's Bratislava, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, Warsaw, etc. and that of 1989 was missed. Shame! Similarly, the dramatic differences of rural versus city life appear to be low on the agenda. Ah well! While I've "been there, done that" many, many times over, I'm sure your Johnny-come-lately commentary will be humorous -- intended or otherwise. Do enjoy. Best regards, Jim Garvey, Boston, Massachusetts (formerly Krakow and Wroclaw, Poland, Vienna, Austria, etc.)

Richard replies: Point taken. I could, should, would have visited here sooner to report if that is where my duties had taken me. They didn't so I didn't ! But, hey, better late than never. And isn't a party always at its best once its got going ? As for rural versus city life, the same can be said for Spain, Portugal, Ireland, fact most of the existing EU countries.

Thank you for your reportage about your experience with Czech Republic. I'm Czech so you can imagine it's not pleasant reading ... but you are right. "Our customer, our boss" is not most popular phrase in Czech Republic, we have a lot to learn. Many people say that EU is our chance for bigger economic success. Well, my opinion is that it's chance for change of our thinking. In competitive background of EU, Czechs will have to change themselves. If we'll achieve this, economic success will follow. And I'm sure: When CNN will come to Prague next time, your experience will be completely different! Martin, Prague

Isn't technology supposed to lighten your load? Shouldn't a laptop, cell phone and credit card replace at least some of your 16 cases? The audience may crave real time, but giveUabreak! Rudy Martinka, Chicago

Richard replies: Tell that to my boss ! Have you any plans to visit Zakopane or Krakow? My wife and I visited both these cities on our honeymoon in 2002 and loved how friendly the locals were. I hope with Poland joining the EU the natural beauty of a place like Zakopane will not become just another Swiss or French ski resort look alike. Aaron Logan, Canada

Richard replies: Unfortunately we had to make choices. And Krakow was on the list of where we should be on EU night April 30th, but the Capital had to win. So I am in Warsaw. We can't win with this one !!

Seeing the photo of your unmade bed made me remember when I used to travel alone for work, although there are usually other people around, and work is busy, at the end of the day it is a very lonely feeling to go to bed alone, even though I am at a luxury hotel, with staff at beck and call... After a few days I start feeling very sad and agitated, tempers start flying, or start staying up way too late... It boils down to the fact that trips are so much better when you travel with a loved one or good friend, then it almost doesn't matter where you are and in what conditions. Weiwei Lu

Richard replies: I can hear the massed ranks of global business travellers shrieking "And so say all of us...".

I enjoyed your funny reportage about Czech Skodas. I offer you one anecdote: Czech car buyers are of two kinds. The first will always buy a Skoda, because it is a Skoda. The second will never buy a Skoda, because it is a Skoda. With regards, Stanislav Kolar, Prague

My mates and I bellowed with joy to see that your trips are as squalid as ours! Being business people who travel about 3 weeks out of the month, your stories ring true to us. I'd like to add some uplifting encouragement here, but there is none. You are doomed. Endure. Cheers, Jed Dreisker

If one would venture into Slovenia or Croatia, where would one be? Were these countries "Soviet satellites"? Old Yugoslavia was independent from the eastern bloc. When people talk about them as Eastern Europe, I ask them where Greece is. It is amazing how many people consider Greece to be a Western European country. As Slovenia and Croatia are west from Greece... Bon voyage. Davor

Richard replies: Use Quest's Rule of Time. Which time zone are they in ? And that's your answer. Ok. It's not perfect but it's the best I can do and make sense.

I think it is safe to say America has its share of critics out there. Where do the new EU members weigh in? In their eyes are Americans: crusaders, resource hogs, overweight slobs in designer sweat suits? Do they appreciate the genius of a nation that brought them Slinkies and infomercials or are they bitter over Americans pushing J. Lo movies and the Olsen twins into their cultures? Brant Weingartner

Richard replies: It is impossible to make too many generalisations about 10 countries and tens of millions of people. BUT, those I have spoken greatly want to share in the better standard of life enjoyed by the US. They admire the potential, drive and dynamism of the country. And they are very worried aobut its cultural dominance fearing that traditional music, ways and culture will be subsumed simply because it is not as profitable as a J. Lo movie. There is nothing new in this. France has long seemed to adopt the same fears. On the political front they are as divided by the US policies as the rest of the world.

How enthusiastic are the new EU members about the prospect of being closer partners with the other new members? The West offers economic allure and political stability, but several of the new members carry historic grudges against close neighbors, particularly in the case of Slovakia and its neighbors Hungary and the Czech Republic. Do you detect indifference towards the other new members? Animosity? What does either attitude portend for future European cooperation? Reid Burkhardt, San Diego, California

Richard replies: Oh, everyone pays lip service to being better friends with their arch historical rivals but you are right. Absolutely. The Slovaks are bitter at the Czechs especially about their economic success after independence. The Latvians seem to resent the Estonians. The Hungarians are worried about the Poles being the dominant player in the new Europe. Melding this lot together won't be easy. However lets be blunt. A real politic is likely to be seen in this New Europe . Yes, the small countries will have their say, but in the end it will be Euro Business as Usual. And the big countries will usually get their way.

My husband, 2 children and I recently took a trip to Bratislava to visit friends who are living there. ... In talking with people in Bratislava, we found their biggest concern with entering the EU was that costs would increase for the average consumer. Already prices have been rising in anticipation, and the fear is that goods & services will increase faster than their wages. Our impression is that their standard of living has already improved immensely -- especially when you see the communist bloc housing across the Danube. We hope to visit again to see how things will change. Perhaps you should do an anniversary "tour" next year! Jennie Rayner, Boca Raton, Florida

Richard replies: Can I repeat what I said earlier ? I do think there will be a certain amount of price gouging as unscrupulous traders take advantage of the situation -- but strictly speaking -- there is no reason why prices should rise in the new EU. It simply doesn't make economic logical sense. Gas prices may rise a bit, taxes may go up in some countries to harmonise economies. But this wont, or shouldn't happen overnight.

Prague is a magical city which has its own power to seduce any one. I am living in Prague now for more than 3 years and am in complete love with it but unfortunately you are right about the unfriendliness citizen in this country. I hope this trend will change after EU accession. Farhan Ayaz, Prague

Richard, How do we (I) feel about joining the EU? Waiting, but not expecting much. Sad, that it took so long. Happy because it is finally here. Sad, because we are going to be only a second class traveller on the fast train. Cautious that only our market share is needed. Understanding that miracle won't happen overnight. Open to new ideas. Hopeful that the minority issues ... will be resolved. Waiting for the old members to get to know us better, or at least try. Excited about the new oppurtunities. But all in all we would want to be welcomed as someone who came home after a long and painful trip. And all I would want is feel that we have arrived. Tamás, Hungary

Richard replies: I think you have summed up perfectly what I have discovered. Thank you.

Hello, I find your reportages very good and insightful, and I certainly agree that the people in Czech rep were unfriendly. Having traveled extensively through Western and Central/Eastern Europe, I can also add that Hungarians seemed friendliest. Apart from that, I believe there is too much attention being paid to Prague, and not enough to a beautiful city like Budapest, for example... Anyway, keep those stories coming!!!!! Victor, Toronto, Canada

I speak 6 languages, my husband speaks 3 and my cat understands 3 but last summer we were in Prague's airport for connection flight and found no written information in any languages other than Czech and Russian. We stood there trying to ask any of the uniformed employees, one of them just shut down the counter saying I am not on duty and when we asked where is "information's counter" she turned around and gave us her back! Did they put any new signs yet for the 21st century's sake? Souciva

Richard replies: Not that I noticed!

As I read your piece about Slovakkia and the question whether you were in Eastern or Central Europe especially when you reach the Baltics. We the Estonians prefer now after our independence to refer to our country as being in North Europe. Well, you can't escape geography, but when Old Father Time should be taken as a basis, then Finland, our northern neighbour, should be in Eastern Europe as well? We at least hope that in the ten or so years we have managed to develop fast and pass that Western stereotype of 'Eastern Europe' and could soon be considered Nordic. I guess it is up to you to find out yourself. Anu, Tallinn

Richard replies: Help!

I read your story about double comforters. I was born and grew up in Slovakia and never heard about it until I came to Canada. Even after 35 years of living in Canada I cannot get used to it. When I travel with my husband in North America, we always request double beds so we get 2 separate blankets -- comforters are luxuries. I think it is just different sleeping habit -- but one that it is hard to get adjusted to. Stefanie Hayek

"Maybe they have not yet understood the link between a smile and tourism's economic success." ummm ... Prague doesn't have tourism success? We are talking about the same Prague here? Steve Parsons

Dear Richard, please make sure that Rachel (series producer) is eating properly, getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night and is NOT drinking alcoholic beverages to excess. Thank you very much. Rachel's mother

Richard replies: Dear Rachel's Mother, I am doing my best. But it is a losing battle. She does like her late nights! Do you have any baby pictures of her we can entertain our readers with?

Oh, dear, Richard, it's a shame no one briefed you before you went to the Czech Republic about the "smile" issue. As one who lived in Prague for four years, I learned that Czechs only smile when they are pleased or amused. This is often interpreted as unfriendliness by westerners, who reflexively smile whether we are happy or sad as a greeting, as a gesture of goodwill and non aggression. To a Czech, our reflex smile can appear phony or disconcerting. From their side of the cultural filter, we can appear to be making faces or worse, laughing at them. If you view your experience in this light, does it make it easier to take? In I am so sorry that you didn't know this before you went -- your whole visit might have been different. Best regards, Judy E.

As Eastern Europe expands don't forget the stark contrast to the south. A short drive from Hungary, which has an old-world charm, and Croatia, you can arrive in Bosnia. Sarajevo was the birthplace of world war One. Still a divided country, and a former war-zone. Mine fields and bullet holes are statements of the war. The area has suffered from the breakdown. The economy is ailing. Yet, even with all the pollution and wreckage the place has a certain beauty. It's closeness to Eastern Europe is hard to understand. Cheers and Thanks for the news ! Chris Brown

The expatriate community of Tallinn has been eagerly following your adventures across the EU accession countries over the last week. For those of us that have called this part of the world our home for a decade, your reports have presented us with a vivid reminder of the changes that have taken place in the respective candidate countries since independence. From my perpective as a private wealth advisor and investment banker in CEE, the transformation has been astonishing. If our calendars are correct, welcome back to Northern Europe and Estonia! John Stewart Wilson

Recently, I have seen your report on the Estonian tradition of music and I just loved it. When I was 2 years old my parents immigrated to Switzerland where we have been living up to. I am now 24 and during my studies I have been given the opportunity to spend 1 semester in Tallinn, Estonia. As you know my background you might imagine that I have a great affinity for the former Eastern countries. Having both passports, a Swiss and Czech one, I am excited to finally becoming a member of the EU. Believe me, the Baltics and the other former Eastern block countries are a great deal undervalued in terms of economic development, organisations and living standard. I fell in love with Estonia after few days. Although the people seem to be a little be cold hearted at the beginning as well as reluctant to open up, they will do so if you let them time. I just wanted to say thank you for the insight into those countries. Many people (above all in "outsider" Switzerland) don't know anything about those neglected countries. However, I wish you a lot of fun which you certainly will have during your journey. Thanks again. David (a student from Switzerland whose memories of Estonia keeping him alive)

I wonder why you didn't visit Slovenia as well. You'd be pleasantly surprised, especially if you took a trip to our beautiful places like Bled or Bohinj. There you can rent a plane and check the beautiful scenery from the bird's perspective. I'm always amused to hear your comments about other countries and I really wonder what you'd say about mine. Bostjan

With pleasure I watch your series about the EU expansion, currently at the Radisson, Adelaide Australia. As a frequent world traveller I believe it is a wonderful thing we strive to become one happy communitity. The expansion of the EU is an important next step. As a young adult I am happy to see my collegues and friends come from all over the world, but we get along very well. I even manage to have a French wife (or better she is able to live with a Dutchmen!) It seems so evident, but only less than 50 years ago our grandparents were shooting at eachother. And as a little boy I spend many holidays at the German wall, wondering how it was to be living at the other side. Thanks to independent media and easy travelling we understand eachother much better than ever before. It has changed the world dramatically in the last 20 years. Understanding is the very fundament of mutual respect. Then cultural differences only bring excitement ad opportunities. Despite the current wars and misery I believe the world has already become a better place in the last decades. Thank you for travelling with me from hotelroom to hotelroom around the globe and generally waking me up with your big smile. Willem Siebelink

One wonders, Le Monde and The Economist notwithstanding, how old Europe will adapt, or not, to New Europe? Surely this can't be how one sets up a piece on CNN for transmission but instead of your lovely puff piece on Estonia, and whom besides Stalin and Gorbachev, does not love Estonia?, why not a piece about how, ahem, France, less so perhaps Germany, fears that Poland is a Trojan horse for greater U.S. influence within the Continent? Can you, to get American slangy, "even go there?" Or, back to The Economist, how the newest members see Ireland as their model for economic growth and not the calcified economies of France and Germany? Or maybe just a retro piece about how Brits could never imagine just how grateful they are, or should be, to Baroness (you guys and your silly titles!) Thatcher? Can you remember the UK in, say, 1977? Just a thought from the middle of America, where elections are won or lost. Yours sincerely, John H. Gilmore.

Richard, I'm very interested to know if many of the citizens of the new EU countries see membership as a new economic opportunity to work and travel freely where the economy is better, or are they willing to wait for the economic benefits of membership to flow eastward? Linda Burns, Chicago

A very interesting question. Wherever we have been there has been disappointment and in some cases anger at the immigration restrictions placed on the new member countries' nationals from going to work elsewhere. For instance, in Estonia I was told that they were being treated as second-class citizens.

In Hungary everyone knew that Britain and Ireland were the only two countries that didn't have draconian transitional arrangements. The overriding feeling from the people we have met, talked to and discussed these things with is one of cynicism. They know there will be economic benefits in the fullness of time but, like the changes that took place after the revolutions, they also know it will take far longer than the politicians have led them to believe. And, finally, no -- most people are not planning to move elsewhere to the EU just for a better salary.

Dear Richard, today I saw on CNN International your report about dentists in Hungary near the border with Austria. Also, every time when I travelled to Hungary for shopping they always put a border stamp into my passport, and we had to wait a long time to enter. I hope that dentist did a great job in your mouth for little money. I will continue to watch your reports on CNN. Ivan Huziak

Well, the filling is still in my mouth and I have given it a good chewing on all the marvellous dumplings, crepes, borschts etc that we are eating on the way. This is the first assignment where I think I might actually put on weight. As for border stamps. I know have plenty!

Hello Mr. Quest, okay, the questions men around the world are dying to know ... which country joining the EU has the most attractive women? The best beer? Cheers, Chris

If you think I am getting into THAT argument, Chris, think again! I strongly suggest you come and make those decisions for yourself, trying lots of the beer; you can always say it was necessary for research!

Mr. Quest (and the European Quest team): Are the hills really alive with the sound of music? Thank you. Regards, Sarina Pasricha

Music, music and more music. It's everywhere. Watch our report next week from Estonia which has a music festival to rival any in the world, and where we meet the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest.

I recently returned from a trip to the beautiful nation of Slovenia. I've been around the world, and Ljubljana is one of my favorite cities. I was there for nearly two weeks and hardly began to experience everything this small country has to offer. Slovenia is being slighted, and you have no idea what you're missing. Becky Klugiewicz

I know. I know. I know. I am sorry we have not visited Slovenia, Cyprus or Malta. But they said I had to do this in two weeks (which is a lifetime in television news) and we simply couldn't make the flights and times work. As it is I am only in some of these countries for a day and a half. Poor excuse I know.

Richard, It's a great idea for you to see first hand what is happening in the new EU member countries. I saw your piece on this morning's CNN, with you driving the minivan with Slovak license plates. I've been living and working here for 10 years, and I'm quite excited about the developments connected with entry into the EU. There is no more exiting place to be at this time in history. Enjoy your discovery trip in Central Europe. It may not be the "trip of a lifetime," but I'll bet it will be an experience you will never forget. Good Luck! Roger G. Johnson

All I can say is this is an area of the world I knew little about first hand. I still find it hard to imagine what it must have been like living through the transition. One dear older lady we interviewed here in Latvia was more blunt. She told me I could really comprehend what it was like to go from Soviet citizenship to EU membership. She is right. I can only hope to bring you her enthusiasm for the change.

Shame your not going to Estonia when the beer festival is on you'd love it! Anna Lewis

So tell me something I don't know ? Blame Rachel my producer. I do.

What are people "hoarding" as part of the old culture identifers? Besides coins and currency, what other items are symbols of the pre-EU which will not be necessary? How are countries which have not applied for EU membership viewed? Is there going to be hot spot (as I already read the article on the increase in air traffic through Poland's airport) within the new membership countries? Can I go with your expedition next time? Andrea M Panner

Firstly, you have to remember very little will change immediately. The new countries will be members of the EU but not of the euro currency zone at least until 2008. So coins and currenc y will remain the same -- but an interesting note. The euro is effectively coming in through the back door. In countries like Slovakia, Poland and even Estonia I have been able to pay with euros in most shops and restaurants. So expect a much easier transition to the euro when it arrives.

They don't waste too much time thinking about non-EU members. Those I have spoken to are still a bit gob-smacked that just 14 years after totalitarianism they are members of NATO and about to be EU members.

Where will be the hot spot? Prague airport is already bustling (excellent duty free shop) and the city is thriving (see my report from today's European Quest) but others will be niche players too. Tallinn and Vilnius for pubs, stag nights and parties for instance. But, please, don't forget the rest. The real beauty of this new Europe is in those smaller towns, villages and squares where you can actually see changes taking place.

Great idea! A friend of mine was in the US on summer holidays and a guy wanted to know where she was from, she said Slovakia and he asked her how long would it take him to get there by car ... and if we have electricity and PCs there. This is just one of many stories that my Slovakian friends are experiencing abroad. It's time to change. Eva Dubecka, Bratislava

Be careful what you wish for!! Your city is lovely. Your food is excellent. Your prices are reasonable Just wait until the low-cost airlines start flying there in numbers and the tourists will flock.

Enjoy your time on your trip across these countries! I am going to Latvia next month and look forward to the changes that have been made since joining the EU and NATO. Riga is a beautiful city and is beautiful when it wakes from its winter slumber. Anthony Stanley

A sad truth, but all these cities are so much more beautiful when the sun shines! But then again, so is London, New York and Paris. I am in Riga tonight.

I love your presentation of the news. I wish I would see more of you on CNN. I am a Polish-born businessman who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. I'm going back to Poland May 3-10, to start businesses there. I think you will find that it's much more about money and jobs, though. It's about becoming a "legitimate" part of Europe. Eastern Europe has had a stigma as the backwater of Europe for 100 years now. Finally, it's about being on equal footing with the rest of Europe. Its a matter of pride. Have a great trip! Matt Perek Valencia, CA

We are all Europeans. Let's leave it at that!

First, good luck on your quest. I've been here over 8 years now and I'm not sure who these new Euopeans really are either. Being caucasion American I am really a European, but am also a Hungarian immigrant. Does that make me an old European, a new European, or just an old American trying to be European? Seriously, I would like to know if there are other Americans who have come home to Europe through the new EU countries. Have a good time on your "Quest". Gary Carpenter, Hungary

As you all travel through the new member states I wonder what sense you get from the everyday worker or even student. Do they have a euphoria and drive that will take many western Europeans by storm? Alexander L. Fernández

No. They have a much deeper feeling. It is much more profound. It is as if they are being admitted to a club they have long admired but are deeply fearful they won't be accepted as full members for many years. The bigger countries know they will soon catch up; the smaller ones wonder whether their cultures will be swallowed up. They already bemoan the globalization of their high streets (for which read western shops and products). They want to keep their identities in the new Europe.

Hi, I'm so looking forward to the show. I'm curious, how many people of color live in these countries and what is their experience. Do these new EU countries have an awareness of multi-ethnicity --in the old way or the new way? Adrienne Crew

I will be honest. I have seen few people of colour in these countries. It is a fact. And in some countries like Slovakia the Roma minority discrimination problem continues to bedevil the community. But, they all have constitutions guaranteeing equality of religion, race and sex (an EU treaty requirement) and they are all making great strides. But, let's be honest, there is some way to go.

Estonians seem to be as well equipped as Americans with the latest technology ---laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, CD players. What kind of things don't they have that we take for granted? Yvonne and Allen King

Estonia's government has a policy called E Estonia. So broadband access is everwhere. The net is under every nook cranny and staircase (see the next CNN Business Traveller show from Estonia*). There is virtually nothing that isn't available in the rest of the EU, at least in the capital cities. The only place I have not been able to use my Blackberry e-mail device which requires GPRS is Vilnius. All major hotels have hot-spots for wi-fi. Airports are well equipped with the technology. It is the price to buy things that will hinder dedvelopment. So, yes, you can find the iPod here ... but can you afford it?

I just want to give my appreciation and admiration to the very talented Richard Quest. In the past 12 months I have become an avid viewer of his reports on CNN. Whenever I find myself checking into yet another hotel room, CNN is immediately and constantly on. I'm very much looking forward to the European Quest, good luck to Richard and the team!!! Best regards, Marcus

You are too kind. Thank you.

And have a great time in Central and Eastern Europe! I am jealous. I am a 65-year-old Wisconsin man who worked in Warsaw, Poland (6 months), then Bratislava, Slovakia (4 months), then over a year in Bucharest, Romania from 1997-99 ... My work included spending several visits to Budapest and to Prague, two absolutely wonderful cities -- Prague being my favorite city in the world. Ralph P. Kummerow

It is time to visit again!

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