High-flown rhetoric greets 25-strong EU
Sunday 02 May 2004
European leaders ushered in a new era of integration with a 25-nation union yesterday amid high-flown rhetoric, flag-raising ceremonies and verse from Ireland's Nobel prize poet Seamus Heaney.
Heads of government gathered for an emotional ceremony in Dublin's Phoenix Park hours after the new members' accession was celebrated in firework displays across Europe.
Bertie Ahern, the Prime Minister of Ireland, the nation currently holding the EU presidency, said the advent of eight ex-communist nations, plus Cyprus and Malta, marked "a new beginning for Europeans". He added: "May 1, 2004 is a day of hope and opportunity". Tony Blair echoed the view saying the expansion was "good news for Europe and good news for Britain".
From the Baltic to the Mediterranean there were celebrations, but the main ceremony was in Dublin where children presented the leaders with national flags that were then hoisted alongside the EU's blue and gold emblem.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish president, shed a tear as he hugged leaders. Mr Heaney, in his poem "Beacons at Bealtaine" hailed the "homecoming" of the eastern European nations. Last night the 25 leaders sat down to salmon, duckling and wild berries, with, symbolically, wine from the Simcic vineyard which straddles the Italian, Slovenian border. Behind the rhetoric there was acceptance that the admission of 10, mainly poor, nations, posed unparalleled economic and political challenges for the EU. A constitution to reform decision- making procedures should be agreed by June. But yesterday leaders conceded this work would be threatened if just one nation did not ratify the treaty.
Mr Ahern said there would be "enormous difficulties" in continuing decision-making with the current rules, adding that Christian traditions and values would probably be included in the preamble of the draft constitution, an issue which is highly controversial in some countries.
But neither Mr Ahern nor Romano Prodi, the European Commission's president, gave much momentum to the idea floated by the French President, Jacques Chirac, that nations not ratifying within two years should leave the EU.
Yesterday's meeting put Mr Blair face to face with the new Spanish premier, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who said that the enlarged EU would be one that defended "peace, international law, the strengthening of the United Nations".
Ireland, meanwhile, drew up massive security, with 5,000 police and 2,000 soldiers on standby to prevent demonstrators disrupting events. A rally of about 1,000 protesters failed to overshadow proceedings, but in the evening police used water cannon to disturb protesters in a suburb four miles from the leaders' meeting after scuffles broke out.
Meanwhile Pat Cox, the European Parliament's president, commented on the press, saying he was "sickened by the reduction of this wonderful moment into tabloid headlines in so many places - who should know better about floods of migrants, for example. The only flood we have seen is a flood of tabloid ink and prejudice."
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 3 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 4 Motorists taunt suicidal woman on bridge and tell her to 'get on with it'
- 5 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...
£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...