FEPS celebrates 20 years of the biggest EU enlargement


The European Union enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe on 1 May 2004 was a historic moment, symbolically marking the end of the post-Cold War division in Europe and launching a new chapter that led the EU to further strengthen its position as a global, democratic power. It was a strong belief of the progressive political family that the new enlargement was not only a necessity but also a great opportunity to build peace, prosperity, and welfare for all. 

The two turbulent decades that have passed have brought many questions regarding diverse aspects of the 2004 (and later) enlargements. The failure of the Nice Treaty and the crash of the Constitutional Treaty have led many to think that it may have happened too quickly, too soon, and, more importantly, without the preparedness to grow from a Union of 15 to one of 25 overnight. 

The political developments, especially within Poland and Hungary, which made the two countries enter a disputable path straying from democracy and the rule of law, raised doubt about the assessment process and the resilience of the Copenhagen Criteria. 

These are some of the reasons that make today’s EU aware that the long-awaited new enlargement has to be a different process, and the deepening and widening of the EU need to go hand in hand.

Even if there are some negative considerations (some of them more legitimate than others), 2004 was a ground-breaking moment. This 20th anniversary must be a moment for reflection on what kind of lessons and inspiration for the future can be drawn from that experience

For Progressives, whose parties in the region are struggling, it is an occasion to treasure the legacy of the last enlargement and articulate the ambition for the present, ahead of the June 2024 vote and for the years to come. 

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of EU enlargement, FEPS leadership is engaged in a number of activities, including: 

  • Euronews TV news report, featuring an interview with FEPS Secretary General László Andor.
  • Policy Study EU Treaties – Why they need targeted changes, authored by 14 renowned experts on European constitutional law, political science, political economy, and EU policies, including FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues, one of the architects and final negotiator of the Lisbon Treaty.
  • Event ‘20 Years of Poland in the EU’ by Fundacja Aleksandra Kwaśniewskiego ‘Amicus Europae’ and Lewica’s featuring FEPS Director for Research and Training Ania Skrzypek together with Jerzy Buzek, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Marek Belka, Robert Biedroń.
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