For millions of Romanians and Bulgarians, there was a double reason for celebrating as the new year dawned and their countries became the latest to join the European Union. It now counts 27 members, almost half of them former communist countries. In the Romanian capital Bucharest, partying lasted well into the night. “We are Europeans,” said one reveller. “We are grateful to the EU because they were very kind to us, they helped us a lot. We wish all EU countries a happy new year.” “We are a country with a very rich history and culture, which America for example does not have,” a young woman said. “I hope Romanians will understand what it means to be citizens of Europe.”
In the Bulgarian capital Sofia, it was also an all-night party. The hope is that membership will bring the stability and prosperity needed for Bulgaria and Romania to boost their fast-growing economies and raise living standards which are the poorest in the EU.