A delegation of three representatives of the “4Liberty.eu” Network, a platform for experts and intellectuals from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as three campaign organizers visited Brussels in February. Under the motto “expectations vs. reality” the discussions looked back at the developments in the participants home countries in the last decade post-accession and ahead to the upcoming European Parliament elections in May 2014. On the agenda were meetings with Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, experts at the Centre for European Policy Studies as well as a public event (see: Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland: from EUphoria to post-accession EUrealism?).
Ten years ago, the political geography of Europe changed when ten countries mostly from Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union. Then Bulgaria, Romania, and eventually Croatia followed, thereby creating the largest single market and the biggest area of freedom of movement in the world. However, after the initial EUphoria, the “new” members soon faced the reality of the stark discrepancy between them in their ability to keep up with the integration-stride of the “older” kids. The recent crisis in particular has not only left some newbies vulnerable in the economic department, but allowed populists and eurosceptics to dominate the domestic discourse on European affairs. Yavor Aleksiev, Economist at the Institute for Market Economic (Bulgaria), Csaba Tóth, Director of Strategy at the Republikon Institute (Hungary) and Błažej Lenkowski, President of Fundacja Industrial (Poland) discussed whether the biggest enlargement in EU history has meet the expectations of the new members and what the greatest challenges are for liberals with regards to the upcoming European Parliament elections.
“Today is a great day. The first former Soviet Republic presides over our Union. We have come a long way in 25 years. We look to Lithuania to breathe new life into Europe,” ALDE Party President Sir Graham Watson MEP opened the discussion on the occasion of Lithuania taking over the EU Presidency on July 1. Lithuania is the first of the three Baltic states that joined the EU in 2004 to hold the rotating presidency.