30 April 2004
BRUSSELS – The strains of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – official anthem of the EU – will ring out across Europe Saturday as citizens of the European Union welcome ten new member states.
From the stroke of midnight on 1 May, the anthem will officially usher in a new European era, as central and eastern European states put decades of iron curtain isolation behind them once and for all.
In Germany’s Frankfurt an der Oder and Poland’s Slubice, two towns facing each other across the Oder river, two days of music, dance and celebration are planned.
At midnight – again to Beethoven’s Ninth – German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his Polish counterpart Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz will perform a symbolic “border opening” on the Oder bridge.
All over Europe, party planners are ensuring the day is remembered not as a dry succession of speeches and political flag-waving, but a celebration for the union’s many different peoples.
Ireland – current holder of the six-month rotating EU presidency – is focusing on family-oriented street parties and public festivals alongside the pomp and ceremony of the official Dublin bash being attended by heads of state and government from all 25 member nations.
In Dublin, dignitaries will spend only half an hour marking the historic event – with a photocall and flag-raising ceremony – before retiring to a private dinner.
Public festivities, in the capital and in ten towns across the country each of which are twinned with an accession state, will begin early in the morning and go on well into the night.
Across continental Europe, celebrations will concentrate on key border crossings which will no longer mark the dividing line between those in the club and those waiting to join.
In Budapest, food stalls and stages will festoon the city centre and three of the city’s Danube bridges will be “dressed up”, while at midnight Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy will overturn an hourglass to symbolize of the beginning of a new epoch.
Citizens of the former Soviet Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are cooking up a mouthwatering menu of music and fireworks to feed the party atmosphere.
Lithuanian partygoers are encouraged to bring candles, torches, cigarette lighters and anything that shines or makes a light in an ambitious scheme to be the “brightest point in Europe” at midnight.
Not to be outdone, Estonians have hatched a plan to plant one million trees – one for every citizen.
In Malta, scenes and images from all over Europe will be laser- projected onto the walls of Valletta’s famed Fort San Angelo, with Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame among those providing the music.
Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia will lay on fireworks, open- air concerts and public addresses, hoping to welcome a better future through music, dance and celebration.
A midnight celebration is also planned for the border crossing between Nova Gorica in Slovenia and Gorizia in Italy – again to the sounds of Beethoven’s Ninth.
The only sour note in the proceedings comes from Cyprus, whose Greek Cypriot citizens last weekend voted to reject a UN-sponsored plan to reunite the island, despite their Turkish Cypriot neighbours voting in favour.
The welcome now being extended to Greek Cypriot Cyprus, still joining the bloc regardless of the referendum outcome, is seen by many as being muted.
As Europe dusts off its dancing shoes for the bloc’s biggest ever bash, there’s a distinct feeling in many quarters that the Greek Cypriots have somewhat spoiled the party.
Subject: German news