Driving the Scenic Route to European Union Membership, by Nicholas Kulish, in the New York Times:
We cheered out loud, in an almost tearful swell of relief, as we re-entered civilization, crossing the border into Romania. Romania, another former Communist dictatorship is my idea of civilization? The answer is absolutely, because of that tiny little blue flag with yellow stars - the banner of the European Union - at the crossing point. Let me be clear: Romania is not yet a member, and still the contrast with a country like Ukraine was night and day. What had been an hourly ritual of bribes, doling out the three C's - cash, Coke and cigarettes - to machine pistol-wielding cops, abruptly ended.
(This reminds me of the end of 2000, when we were Luhansk: quite a number of local business people complained about how fucked-up their region was, how difficult it was to do business there. "Everyone's calling [the neighboring] Donetsk region [run by Yanukovych then] the most corrupt in Ukraine - but no, compared to us here, it's like paradise over there, like a foreign country!" Judging by some of the most bizarre obstacles that we ran into during that Luhansk trip, I am still inclined to believe what those people said.)