Parliament celebrates the 20th anniversary of the EU’s biggest enlargement

On Wednesday morning, MEPs, EU and member state representatives, and young people born 20 years ago, marked the entry into the EU of ten countries in May 2004.

EP President Roberta Metsola, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, former EP President Pat Cox, and former Commission President Romano Prodi participated in a formal sitting of Parliament to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2004 EU enlargement.

Addressing the ceremony, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said:

”In these past two decades, Europe has been met with unprecedented challenges. Together, we have managed to meet them head-on. I know how tempting it was, in the most difficult of moments, for each one of us to go at it alone, and yet we resisted. Because we understood that even with all of its frustrations and imperfections, the European Union is still the best guarantee for all our people.

The transformative effect of EU enlargement on the lives of generations of Europeans is without any doubt. It is evident in each and every one of our Member States. From the enforceable rights afforded to its citizens to the opportunities that are offered to young and old alike. From the Single Market that is strengthening our economies to our cohesion policy that realises our commitment to the equality of Europeans. Joining the European Union is not just about transposing legislation. It goes much deeper and far beyond that.

Unity does not mean being homogenous. Europe does not seek to make everyone the same. We are proud of our differences. Proud of our unique traditions, our cultures, our languages and our diversity. We have proven that over the past 20 years.

Rather, Europe is about embracing differences while ensuring equality of opportunity. Everyone must have the same chance, not necessarily the same viewpoint. That is our strength. That is our Europe. And that is why membership is a win-win for all. Europe may have changed each one of its Member States since 2004. But each and every one of those Member States has equally changed Europe.”

The present and former EU leaders were joined by the former European Commissioner for Enlargement Günter Verheugen and representatives from the ten countries, that joined the EU 20 years ago:

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cyprus Georgios Iacovou

Former Prime Minister of Hungary Péter Medgyessy

Former President of Latvia Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Antanas Valionis

Former Prime Minister of Malta Lawrence Gonzi

Former Chief Negotiatior for Malta’s European Union Accession Negotiations Richard Cachia Caruana

Former Prime Minister of Slovenia Anton Rop Former Prime Minister of Slovakia Mikuláš Dzurinda

Former Prime Minister of Poland Leszek Miller

Former Minister of Foregn Affairs of Estonia Kristiina Ojuland

Former Chief Negotiatior for the Czech Republic’s European Union Accession Negotiations Pavel Telička

During the ceremony, the guests answered questions from a group of young people from the then-new member states and born on or around 1 May 2004 and present in Strasbourg.

The ceremony ended with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, performed by the Voix de Stras’ acapella choir.


On 1 May 2004, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the European Union. It was the biggest enlargement in the EU’s history.