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Europe from One Century to the Next: 1990-2005

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations since 1945.

Emancipation of the ex-socialist republics, collapse of the Soviet Union, and creation of 15 new states: all these events contributed to an important geo-political evolution by putting an end to the division of Europe and opening the way to greater democracy.  However, they also created new opportunities for reviving old quarrels and opened a Pandora’s Box of nationalist demands: Poland has a number of other nationalities within its borders, including Belarusians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Germans; Hungarians still live in Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, Slovaks in Hungary, Poles in Czechoslovakia, etc.

Most of these problems were resolved by diplomatic negotiations. In 1990, the Czech President, Vaclav Havel, proposed that Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary should combine their forces in the Visegrád Group to deal with economic, political and military issues.

In 1992, Czechoslovakia was divided peacefully into two separate states: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In September 1996, Hungary and Romania reached an agreement whereby Hungary recognized the border between the two countries established by the 1920 Trianon Treaty and Romania gave a certain number of rights to its Hungarian minority.

Yugoslavia, however, remained the exception. The declaration of independence by the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, and Macedonia, and later of Bosnia-Herzegovina sparked a series of violent conflicts marked by programmes of ethnic cleansing.   These conflicts ended in 1995, but the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) was now reduced to just two republics: Serbia and Montenegro.

In Western Europe, a new phase of European construction began in the 1990s. Signed in 1992, the Treaty of Maastricht established the European Union (EU) and prepared the ground for a single currency, the euro, introduced in 2002. Meanwhile, in 1995, Austria, Sweden and Finland joined the EU, increasing the number of members to 15.

Joining the European Union was tremendously attractive to the ex-Soviet bloc countries and they soon expressed their desire to become members of NATO and the European Community.

In 1999, NATO celebrated its 50th anniversary and admitted Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary as members of the alliance, followed in 2002 by Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria and the three Baltic states.

In 2004, the European Union also increased its membership with the arrival of a number of ex-communist states: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia, together with Malta and Cyprus.  They were followed by Bulgaria and Romania, which joined early in 2007.