The Accession Story: The EU from Fifteen to Twenty-Five Countries

The Accession Story: The EU from Fifteen to Twenty-Five Countries

The Accession Story: The EU from Fifteen to Twenty-Five Countries

The Accession Story: The EU from Fifteen to Twenty-Five Countries

Excerpt

Politically enlargement became a reality on 1 May 2004, when eight new Member States of Central and southern Europe—Poland, the three Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary—as well as Malta and Cyprus joined the EU. It would be premature to make a final judgement. However, the most important effects of the strategic decision on enlargement have already taken place: today's Europe is a safer and better place to live in and to do business in than fifteen years ago.

Over almost half a century, the European integration has helped put an end to the conflicts of the past and to strengthen peace, security, justice, and well-being throughout the western part of Europe. The breakdown of the Iron Curtain offered the opportunity to overcome the European divisions, to heal historical injustice, and to project peace, stability, and prosperity to a much larger part of the European continent. The enlargement of the EU was driven by the historical experience that Europe is only a safe and prosperous place where it is uniting. It was not only in the European interest but in the interest of more peace, more stability, more prosperity, more cooperation, and more justice in this world that enlargement took place.

Europe has already gained from enlargement. Since the invitation to some Central and East European countries to become part of the European Union in 1993, the enlargement preparation process has already contributed decisively to achieving political stability, economic progress, and social progress. Democratic institutions, changes of government on the basis of free elections, reinforced protection of human rights, and market economy principles are now common features in a large part of Central and Eastern Europe. Today's enlarged Union, encompassing more than 450 million people, is better equipped to master globalization and to confront global challenges. The enlarged Union adds weight to the European Union's external relations and further boosts the need to develop a common European foreign and security policy, enabling the Union to better respond to the new challenges and risks of the twenty-first century and to play its full role as a partner in the transatlantic relationship, which remains crucial.

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