BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's membership in the European Union has brought "peace and stability to our continent," the European Commission's president said Thursday, adding there should not be a second-rate Europe.
Jean-Claude Juncker told the country's Parliament that Romanians are "a courageous and committed people."
Juncker said that Romania's EU membership in 2007 had extended the bloc's reach to the Black Sea that forms Romania's eastern border.
"In the EU, there have never been second-rate countries or countries that are left behind," Juncker said. However he said European countries could progress "with different rhythms. A Europe with several speeds is foreseen in treaties."
He said Romania deserved to be a member of the Schengen passport-free travel area as soon as possible.
His comments came after Romanian President Klaus Iohannis told lawmakers this week that the country is "not a second-rate state in the EU," and urged citizens to "overcome an internal barrier that prevents us from manifesting our national capacity and limits us to unjustly considering ourselves a second-level state."
Juncker warmly greeted former Romanian prime ministers, and tightly hugged Traian Basescu, president from 2004 to 2014, and kissed him on the forehead.
Juncker will meet Iohannis and Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu during his one-day visit.