Greece on April 16 is remembering the historic anniversary 10 years earlier when the Treaty of Accession to the European Union of 10 European countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia – was signed in Athens. The event took place during the Greek Presidency of the Council of the European Union and is enshrined forever as one of the most important documents of the reunited Europe.
Later, on May 1, 2004, the countries became fully fledged members of the reunified European family comprising 25 member states at that time. It was the largest single expansion since the Paris Treaty of 1951, the forerunner of the EU, in terms of population, number of states and territory.
It was also the symbolic completion of the vital strategic goal of all the acceding member states to finally put an end to the post-World War II period by returning to the common space of freedom and stability, democracy and prosperity. The signature of the Treaty of Athens opened a new era for the acceding countries, for their citizens and ultimately for the whole of Europe.
The 2004 EU enlargement required the support of all EU member states. The Greek EU Presidency chose the venue for the act of signature by heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers from all the member states, at the Stoa of Attalos at the Ancient Agora of Athens, in the cradle of democracy that the Athenian philosophers developed in ancient Greece. Democracy still prevails as the best form of government, offering guarantees for free and open societies and nations.