Ten years after the EU enlargement to the East.

1 May 2014

It was the biggest expansion in EU history when ten countries joined the bloc ten years ago amid great expectations and joy. Entrepreneurs in the old EU states were the only ones who remained wary. EuropeanFlag

Niklas Helvig Research Fellow – The European Union Research Programme, Finnish institute of International Affaire thinks that after the end of the cold war, it was the only feasible policy of the EU to offer the countries in Europe’s East a European perspective. First and foremost, the new countries benefited greatly from accession. Just one example: while the GDP per capita in Slovakia was on the same level as Ukraine in 1990, it is now 4 times as high. Most of the increase took place from the early 2000s onwards. But also the EU itself benefited from its new members. Many of the new member states play a leading role in the policy making of the Union. Poland, for example, is a major player in Europe’s foreign policy.

Frank Hage Lecturer in Politics, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick thinks that the prospect of becoming an EU member state was an important incentive in developing and maintaining democratic standards and functioning market economies for the countries transitioning from communist rule. In this regard, the prospect of enlargement and then the integration in the EU was very much a stabilizing factor in Central and Eastern Europe. That a trajectory towards democracy and the rule of law of transitioning countries cannot be taken for granted is best illustrated by current developments in Northern Africa after the Arab Spring revolutions and developments at the current EU’s Eastern periphery (e.g. Belarus and Ukraine).

According to Marjan Svetlicic Professor of International Economic Relations and Negotiations, University of Ljubljana Crises revealed some problems in the functioning of the EU as a whole which were accentuated by differences in the development level between old and new members. It revealed that the convergence was not fast enough that differences during the crises increased, that new members lagged behind in competitiveness that reforms in many of them slowed down after first positive effects of enlargement were consumed. Perhaps the major problem was that incumbent members, particularly Germany, thought that after enlargement adjustments are necessary only in new members. However “one needs two to dance”. Hence old members have to adjust as well. It is not sustainable that some countries, particularly Germany remains for years net exporter to other members and new members net importers.

 Tom Rostoks, Researcher, Latvian Institute of International Affairs, In my opinion, the EU enlargement has been a tremendous success because it has shown what can be achieved by determined reform-minded governments in Central and Eastern Europe. Both old and new member states have benefited from enlargement. New member states have benefited financially from increased EU funding and their citizens have enjoyed greater freedom of movement. But old member states have also benefited because of increased stability and prosperity on their doorsteps. EU enlargement was a historical possibility, a window of opportunity, and the current events in Ukraine bear witness of what is happening with countries that do not formally belong to the community of EU and NATO member states.

 From Matisak blog

 See also:

Travel to the Baltic Hansa. The EU enlargement to the East

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