European newspapers on Saturday hailed the dawn of a new era of peace and prosperity as 10 new mainly former communist countries join the EU, but many worried decade-old fears and prejudices could resurface.
The EU adds new stars to its map
"Europe has reunited, an expression more adequate than enlargement," proclaimed the Spanish leading daily El Mundo, as it welcomed the opening of "a horizon of peace and stability" for generations to come.
For many the enlargement was the realization of a dream which began when the Berlin Wall collapsed 15 years ago, triggering the demise of the communist Soviet Union's iron grip on its European satellite states and opening the door for east-west rapprochement.
"Europe is stepping out of the shadow of Hitler and Stalin," wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany, which perhaps more than any other EU member state bears deep scars for its responsibility in tearing apart Europe.
"Germany is now only surrounded by friends and partners. War is unimaginable within the EU, while it is still a reality at its doors," observed the Berliner Zeitung. "Despite the anger towards the bureaucrats in Brussels who draft obscure directives ... this Union will bring democracy and political stability as well as economic prosperity," it predicted.
Ireland, the host of the official joining ceremony on Saturday and the current holder of the rotating EU presidency, said it was honored to be at the focus of such monumental events.
"We have a great deal to learn from the newcomers. Our history is like theirs in so many respects that this can be seen as a democratic homecoming as well as the beginning of a journey together," the office of the Irish presidency said.
"The main challenge is to transform this new energy into impetus and political weight for the EU. The difference between Rumsfeld's New and Old Europe is just a mirage. What has been born is a new Europe, complicated, but consisting of all 25," commented the Spanish El Pais.
The British press spared no superlatives, trumpeting the fact that the new members might hold in check some of the powers of EU heavyweights France and Germany.
"Welcome back to the free family of Europe," said the Daily Telegraph. "The era when France and Germany could impose their will on the European Union is at an end.
But not all newspapers were so starry-eyed. Many reminded their readers of the challenges ahead and of the huge disparities between the richer and poorer members.
"A historic moment as thousands of eastern European arrive in UK for a fresh star," jeered the British Daily Express. "It is going to be a free-for-all and the authorities are in for a shock."
And for those who got in, May 1 was a bitter reminder that Europe is still divided. "They are in, we are at the door," read the headline of the Aksam daily in Turkey, which is still hoping for a date to start talks on EU accession. "We are watching with envy," lamented the popular Vatan daily.
In Romania, which will have to wait in the wings another three years, the feelings of bitterness were visible. "For Romania, integration into the heart of the European elite remains a dream still," said the daily Evenimentul Zilei. "This morning instead of waking up within the EU, we woke up at its borders."
In Sweden, the Aftonbladet said the biggest challenge was how to resolve economic and social inequalities. "The opportunities are enormous, economically, politically and culturally, Europe will be in every way a richer continent after today's enlargement." But the paper admonished Brussels: "The EU's progressive forces must agree on a social and ecologically sustainable policy for Europe."
In Italy, the Corriere della Sera, saw the day of celebrations as a day of unanswered questions: "A new Europe has been born, but the day of fanfares is also a day of questions. Will there be large migrations? Will prices rise? Who will lead Europe? Can we travel without passports?"
In countries far removed from the newly opened borders, the press berated its citizens for the lack of enthusiasm. "This day should have been a day of celebrations, but the Netherlands is clearly not in the mood for a party. The country seems to be imprisoned by its fear of money changers and criminal gangs from eastern Europe," wrote the Trouw daily.