- Title: VARIOUS: Jubilant parties welcome Romania and Bulgaria to EU
- Date: 1st January 2007
- Summary: (BN01) SOFIA, BULGARIA (JANUARY 1, 2007) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF HAPPY PEOPLE CHEERING AT SOUND OF BULGARIAN ANTHEM VARIOUS OF PYROTECHNICS IN SKY
- Reuters ID: LVA8JH9VM9WP941J13GYMMT1PZT3
- Duration: 00:00:53
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: European Union
- Story Text: Fireworks lit the skies and thousands of people danced at street parties across Romania and Bulgaria to celebrate the two former Soviet bloc Black Sea countries' entry to the European Union on Monday (January 1).
There was relief that, after missing the EU's historic enlargement into eastern Europe in 2004, the two poor countries have finally made the grade and been welcomed into a bloc that is increasingly hesitant to admit new members.
Hopes for prosperity and stability were echoed in the politicians' speeches and the chatter from local residents as blue and yellow EU flags fluttered over Bucharest and Sofia.
Thousands gathered on the streets of Bucharest to see 2007 in at a party to celebrate Romania's entry into the EU.
"This is a moment of great freedom for us," Romania's President Traian Basescu told crowds in Bucharest's University Square as they counted down the last minutes to midnight.
The accession of Romania and neighbour Bulgaria will raise the EU's membership to 27, almost half of them former communist states cut off from the West by the Iron Curtain until 1989.
In Bucharest, revellers said they were excited to join their European neighbours.
"We are Europeans. We are thanking EU because they were very kind with us, they help us a lot. We wish a happy new year for all the countries from EU," said one man.
Another said that accession to the EU brought with it responsibility.
"We are a country with a very rich history and culture, which America, for example, doesn't have. I hope Romanians will understand what does it mean to be citizen of Europe," said the woman.
Others however had their mind of simpler matters.
"I wish cheaper drinks for my friend Gany," he said.
Other EU hopefuls such as Turkey, Albania and states in the Balkans are likely to face a long wait for membership as some Western Europeans fear the bloc may have overstretched itself.
They say enlargement may hurt their job prospects or even bring more crime if, for example, drug smuggling and people trafficking, rife around the Black Sea, spread to the West.
The EU's new borders will stretch from the Atlantic and Baltic in the west and north to the Black Sea in the southeast.
Romania -- the larger of the two -- and Bulgaria will together boost the EU's population by 30 million, to 490 million, but will add just 1 percent to its economic output.
Once laggards in ex-communist Europe's democratic transformation, Romania and Bulgaria secured EU entry by stepping up their fight against endemic graft and crime gangs.
Their economies are growing fast but are the smallest in the bloc, only a third of EU average in per capita terms. Poverty is widespread and growth is plagued by outdated infrastructure, technology and education.
EU aid should sustain development, but both countries face a daunting task to continue reforms so that progress is not hampered by inept administration, corruption and the gangs.
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