Expatica news

Belgium celebratesEU enlargement

30 April 2004

BRUSSELS – Celebrations are being planned all over Belgium to celebrate the historic arrival of ten new countries into the European Union club on Saturday 1 May.

The biggest party will take place in Brussels, home of the EU’s most important institutions, where thousands of people are expected to flock to the Cinquantenaire park on Friday and Saturday.

The festivities will include a flight of 25 hot air balloons, each one representing a European Union country, a European market, featuring food from all of the ten new EU countries, and a children’s village where youngsters can learn about their European neighbours.

The main European institutions will also open their doors this weekend and will be hosting a wide range of events including debates exhibitions and round tables.

Eight of the ten new EU countries are former soviet bloc states and their arrival as full Union members marks the symbolic end of a process of European reunification that began with the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

The eight – The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – have made huge efforts to bring their economies and political systems into line with EU standards over the past 15 years and many analysts say the progress they have made has been truly impressive.

The other two new member countries are the island states of Malta and Cyprus.

This weekend’s festivities in Brussels will be echoed by similar events across the European Union.

In Germany for example, the German and Polish foreign ministers are at midnight set to meet for a historic handshake on a bridge over the Oder river, which separates their two countries.

The gesture will be highly symbolic; taking place as it does on a border that has in the past been at the heart of so many unhappy events in Europe’s past.

After this weekend the European Union will have 25 member countries and over 450 million inhabitants, giving it the world’s third largest population after India and China.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news, Europe