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Brussels, 30 April 2009

From the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 to the Enlargement of the European Union – an international conference with Commissioners Rehn and Figel

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the 5th anniversary of the EU's 2004 enlargement, the European Commission is organising, together with the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, an international conference entitled "From the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 to the Enlargement of the European Union in 2004 – the Role of Civil Society and the Idea of Europe in Democratic Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe". The conference will be held in Prague on 1 May.

The conference will take place on the day of the 5th anniversary of the accession to the EU of eight Central and Eastern European countries, as well as Malta and Cyprus. It will look back on the historic events of 1989 and highlight their impact on the European integration process. Through several panel debates it will address the role of the EU enlargement in the reunification of Europe, the restoration of democracy in Europe after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the importance of civil society and civic participation for democratic transformation.

Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn commented: "This year's historic anniversaries provide us an opportunity to reflect about the impact of European integration on the life of citizens. The prospect of EU membership has served as an anchor of stability and driver of democracy in Europe. It has promoted democratic transformation during politically difficult times and has brought economic benefits to both old and new member states alike. In times of crisis, it is important to retain such historical perspective."

Ján Figel', Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth added: "There are millions of young people, in my home country, Slovakia, and elsewhere, who have become eligible to vote for the first time in this year's European Parliament elections. These fortunate people have never known a Europe divided. They are the first post-iron-curtain generation, and it is a great achievement that they can now call themselves citizens of the European Union! Today we celebrate that the young and old alike in the new Member States, as well as the rest of the EU, can all actively participate and shape Europe's future."

In addition to Commissioners Figel' and Rehn, the conference features contributions and personal testimonies from the Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, the former President of Lithuania and Member of the European Parliament Vytautas Landsbergis, the former Foreign Minister of Austria and Member of the Austrian Parliament Ursula Plassnik, and many others.

For full programme and further information on the conference, please visit

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