Conference marks 20th anniversary of Czechia’s accession to the EU
This year's celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Czechia’s accession to the European Union kicked off on Monday with a conference marking the country’s two decades of membership. It was the first in a series of events that will take place throughout 2024.
Czechia officially joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, but the first in a series of events highlighting the anniversary, a conference entitled “20 Years of Making Europe”, took place at Prague’s Liechtenstein Palace already this Monday.
Speaking at its opening, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said that during the two-decades of EU membership, Czechia has repeatedly proven itself to be an honest and reliable partner to the other member states:
“We have proven, over the 20 years of our membership, that we can do the right thing in crises, that we are ready to show solidarity with the weak.
“I think both of these facts are visible today, when the EU and the whole of Europe are coming to terms with the consequences of Russian aggression, with a war raging close to our borders.”
Mr. Fiala said that Czechia’s engagement and active support for Ukraine has improved its position among the other member states.
He also said that over the year, the country has learned to better assert its views and highlighted the many advantages of its membership in the European Union:
“Our economy is growing and our wealth is growing. Every day we benefit from the free movement of people, services and money. The positive impacts of our membership in the European Union can be seen virtually everywhere. In infrastructure, in services, in the protection of landscape and cultural wealth, in the development of our regions.”
While the conference was attended by all five coalition party leaders, opposition MPs were absent. European Affairs Minister Martin Dvořák told Czech Radio that they were invited, but refused to attend.
“I am really sorry, because I think that such fundamental strategic issues should be discussed in the broadest possible spectrum to reach a wide enough consensus. We don’t want to change direction to the left or to the right every four years. We want to make it clear that the European Union is where we belong.”
The only speaker representing the opposition ANO party was the current vice-president of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, who emphasised that joining the EU has helped the establishment of a stable rule of law and symbolically put an end to the previous era:
“I think that the creation of a stable legal system and the Czech Republic's accession into a functioning European system enabled us to end the ‘wild nineties’.”
The 20th anniversary of Czechia’s accession to the European Union will be commemorated by nearly 100 events, including a concert at Prague’s Rudolfinum and an international event hosted by Prague Castle. The government also wants to introduce a law establishing May 1 a day of commemoration.