The Conferences of the Middle European Cooperation in Statistical Physics (MECO) were created as an attempt to establish and maintain an exchange between scientists in the fields of statistical and condensed matter physics from Western and Eastern countries, overcoming the hurdles of the Iron Curtain. Based on personal remembrance and historical resources, the genesis and further development of MECO meetings is described. The annual meetings were interrupted in 1991 by the Yugoslav War but were re-established in 1993 and continue today. Although the fall of the Iron Curtain and the European Research programs changed the situation for the meetings considerably, the ties created by MECO still are useful to help scientific exchange. The history of European (and not only) statistical physics and the history of the MECO are tightly intertwined. It started in a time where an essential breakthrough has been achieved in statistical physics describing the features near phase transitions. In addition to the merging of solid-state physics and field theory concepts, the application of numerical methods (Monte Carlo methods) added a new pillar besides exact solutions and experiments to check theoretical models. In the following, the scientific emphasis (in general) has changed from the traditional fields of the first MECO to complexity and interdisciplinary themes as well.
Keywords: complex systems; emergence, scaling; interdisciplinary applications of statistical physics; methods and models of statistical physics.