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May 1, 2004

The European Union expanded deep into eastern Europe at the stroke of midnight with the accession of eight ex-communist countries and two Mediterranean islands. The entry of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia swelled the EU's ranks to 25 nations and its population by 75 million to 455 million. "Welcome to the new Europe," trumpeted European Commission president Romano Prodi, feting an event that for many marks the definitive end to Europe's Cold War divisions.

People in the three Baltic states burst into song to celebrate joining the EU, 14 years after singing their way out of the Soviet Union. "Latvia has prepared for the EU, Latvia has strived and argued and achieved a result. Now it is time to celebrate," President Vaira-Vike Freiberga said to a crowd of 30,000 new Europeans gathered on the banks of Riga's Daugava river. The Baltic states' choral tradition hit the international spotlight during the so-called Singing Revolution of passive resistance against Soviet rule, when on August 23, 1989 two million people held hands to make a human chain from Vilnius through Riga to Tallinn.

Posted by acapnews at May 1, 2004 8:52 AM

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