Following the end of the Cold War, Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the European Union in 1995, bringing the number of member states from 12 to 15. The former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic joined the Western defense pact NATO in 1999.
On May 1, 2004, they joined the European Union as well, along with Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Baltic States, and the Mediterranean island nations of Malta and Cyprus. On January 1, 2007, Bulgaria and Romania acceded to the EU as well, making the European Union a political entity of 27 states at the present time.
Most EU members (along with Norway and Switzerland) are also members of the Schengen Agreements, which suspended frontier controls and facilitated the free movement of EU citizens. Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey are negotiating to enter the European Union also, while other European countries have embarked on the complex process of negotiating EU membership.
During Austria’s EU Presidency in the first half of 2006, a U.S. – European Union Summit was staged in Vienna on June 21. Europe, which had been so long divided during the Cold War, has been reunited by way of the continuing EU-enlargement process.
In 2009, the historical memory of the revolutions of 1989 and the uniting of Europe after the end of the Cold War has been invoked all across Central Europe. In Austria – the “eastern outpost” of Western Europe during the post-Yalta Cold War division of the continent – the opening of the iron curtain along its borders 20 years ago is commemorated in numerous conferences, exhibits, and special events.