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EU newcomers stage party of the century

india Updated: Jan 01, 2007 09:45 IST

Tens of thousands of revellers in Bulgaria and Romania sang, danced and drank their way into 2007 and the European Union with their biggest party since the fall of Communism 17 years ago.

Spectacular sound and light shows flooded the centres of Sofia and Bucharest, culminating on the stroke of midnight in a blaze of the EU's colors, blue and gold.

The sky exploded with fireworks and cascades of gold EU stars.

The hearts of both cities were a seething mass of revellers wearing tinsel and woolly hats, dancing to gigantic pop concerts and photographing each other with their mobile phones.

Tens of thousands poured into the streets of Sofia, turning the huge Alexander Battenberg Square into a sea of red, heart-shaped balloons.

"I'm full of hope," said 23-year-old Bulgarian Radoslava Dimitrova, dancing with an EU flag round her shoulders. "Something new, something better is going to happen to us."

In Bucharest's University Square, where Romanians have welcomed in every single New Year since the demise of dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu in 1989, the crowd waved sparklers under an EU flag the size of a 10-storey building.

"When midnight struck my heart leapt," 14-year-old Romanian Alex Berha told AFP. "Me too," chimed Alexandru Ghitulescu, also 14. "I thought: 'I can go to any EU country, just like that. Just with my ID card."

Despite proclamations of European unity, Romania's divided politicians could not bring themselves to celebrate the event together.


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