FEPS Newsletter 3 May 2024: 20 years of the biggest EU enlargement

Big week at FEPS! –

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This very intense week was marked by two of our flagship activities: Call to Europe – The Future is Social, with Commissioner Schmit, and the launch of the new cycle of the Next Left research programme in Madrid. While we get ready to participate in the European Parliament Open Day (join us!), we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the EU’s greatest enlargement. Check it out!

Call to Social Europe


Call to Europe

The future is social

30 April – Brussels – In collaboration with the Brussels branches of national socialist and social democratic parties and Eyes on Europe

FEPS’ flagship conference ‘Call to Europe: the Future is Social’ was a pivotal opportunity to discuss the future of Social Europe with key speakers such as EU Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit and former Prime Minister of Italy Enrico Letta. 


We focused on ideas and trajectories to continue implementing a Social Europe, starting with a keynote speech from Enrico Letta. Then, following Pills of Inspiration from Prof. Kate Pickett, Nika Kovač and Prof. Vivien A. Schmid, the five winners from the ‘Call to Europe’ contest had the opportunity to pitch their ideas, from implementing a new socio-ecological Contract to #TaxTheRichest.


The evening began with a speech from Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, who reiterated the importance of policies such as the decent minimum wage, the Platform Work Directive, and the Child Guarantee in continuing to implement the Social Pillar. We finished with a discussion between Fernando Mariano Sampedro Marcos, Spanish State Secretary for Europe, and FEPS President Maria João Rodrigues on “Social-ist Impact for the next EU Legislature”.


➡️ Read the highlights of the afternoon and evening parts 

📷 Look at the pictures 

🎥 Watch the recording of the conference


Next Left Focus Group 15th cycle launch

Triple transition: How to govern and deliver social progress?

29-30 April – Madrid, Spain – In collaboration with PSOE and Karl-Renner-Institut

Triple transition: How to govern and deliver social progress?

This week, we launched in Madrid the 15th cycle of the Next Left Focus Group at the PSOE headquartersThe Next Left 15 top-level scholars were joined by key political figures, including PSOE leaders and government representatives such as Minister José Luis Escrivá, MP and PSOE President Cristina Narbona, MP and PSOE Secretary of International Politics and Cooperation Hana Jalloul, and MEP and FEPS Scientific Council Chair Lina Galvéz.


A focal point of our agenda was the exploration of how AI can serve people first, and how to deal with the triple transition while delivering social progress, with inputs from top-level speakers in the political sphere, academia and experts.


The Next Left research programme, launched in 2009 by FEPS and Karl-Renner-Institut and chaired by Andreas Schieder, provides progressive stakeholders with key analyses regarding the state and future of Social Democracy in Europe.


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.


The two turbulent decades that have passed and 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 – have led many to think that it may have happened too quickly, too soon, without the preparedness to grow from a EU of 15 to one of 25 overnight.


Even if there are some negative considerations, 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. 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.


On this occasion, FEPS is engaged in a number of activities:

The Union’s identity is shared sovereignty


The Union’s identity is shared sovereignty

By Vladimír Špidla

Read more

The enlargement of the European Union in 2004 was the result of a longer historical process rather than just a decision. During the 1990s, the European area underwent rapid development. Its basic component was the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of its empire under the pressure of the Central European revolutions. This power vacuum had several consequences, the most important of which were the liberation of the Central European states and the Yugoslav war. Another equally important moment was the opening of the way to German unification.

FEPS Secretary General, László Andor, addressed the 20th anniversary of the EU great Eastern enlargement in different media

Interview in Euronews

He also wrote a chapter on the topic in the upcoming book ’20 years in the European Union’, edited by ‪András Bíró-Nagy and Gergő Medve-Bálint‬, which focuses on Hungary’s accession to the EU.

20 Years of Poland in the EU

FEPS is participating in multiple events to commemorate this anniversary, such as the event ‘20 Years of Poland in the EU by Fondation Amicus Europae and Lewica, with the participation of FEPS Director for Research and Training Ania Skrzypek.

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