In 1969 Prof. Alois Beringer from the 1st University Hospital of Vienna organized the first Federation of International Danube Symposium on Diabetes mellitus (FID) in his hometown. The second FID Symposium took place 1971 in Budapest. Those were particularly "hot" times during the Cold War between East and West, and the undersigned, which worked by that time also in Vienna at the 2nd University Hospital, remembers quite good the numerous discussions with Prof. Beringer about how could one bring together to a meeting diabetologists from the Eastern bloc with their western colleagues. This purpose was served by the Danube Symposia, which took place after that regularly every two years, alternately in Austria and in a countries from Eastern Europe. As a result of the Austrian political neutrality of that time, it was a lot easier for colleagues from eastern countries to come here, rather than in other western countries, especially when they were coming into NATO-member countries. Also, many distinguished western colleagues came to the Danube Symposia held in the cities of Eastern Europe. For most of the diabetologists from Eastern Europe, the Danube Symposia were the only possibility to have contact with their western colleagues and to discuss "over" the Iron Curtain.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the end of the Cold War, the Danube Symposia had to reorient their purposes. A high quality diabetological education became the new mission, which was to be carried out in German language. German is increasingly spoken in Eastern European countries, not only by the older, but also by the younger colleagues, including those from the Baltic countries. Many polish doctors work nowadays in the five new German provinces, where the shortage of doctors is a real problem. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Balkan countries, German has a centuries old tradition as a second language.
On the 1st of May 2004 the European Union has opened its borders to the eastern countries, and therefore many of them became members. This political and economical process will certainly also have a great influence on the cultural and scientifical development of these countries and will strengthen their position. Central European countries are becoming once again the centre of the "New Europe", which covers more and more of the "Old Europe".
The Danube is the only river that flows from Central to Eastern Europe. It originates in the Black Forest mountains and it empties into the Black Sea. Even though, it does not geographically "touch" the Baltic countries, nor Poland or other "traditional" FID countries, the Danube should stand as a symbol of the old relationship between different European regions, which nowadays grow more and more together, including diabetologists and other activities related to diabetes mellitus. The intensification of these relations corresponds to §2 of the FID regulations, which were adopted during the Danube Symposium in Krakow 1993. The Association acts today as Central European Diabetes Association, whose special goal is to support in all its countries the establishment of equally high standards in diabetology.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Michael Roden