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Five years of an enlarged EU

The Commission reviews EU enlargement in 2004/2007, judging it an overall success for the EU and its citizens.

Article created February 20, 2009.

In its most recent enlargement, the EU added 12 new countries from central/eastern Europe and the Mediterranean in 2004 (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) and then again in 2007 (Romania and Bulgaria).

This was the biggest ever EU enlargement and was an historic step towards unifying Europe after decades of Cold War divisions.

At the time, some of the 15 existing EU countries were worried about the impact the new EU countries would have on their economies and social systems. But 5 years later the Commission study shows that those fears were unfounded and that expansion has been a win-win situation for EU countries new and old.

>> Live press conference 20 February 2009 at 12:30. Commissioner Almunia (Economic and Monetary Affairs) and Commissioner Rehn (Enlargement) Five years of an enlarged EU - an economic assessment
>> Communication COM(2009) 79/3. Five years of an enlarged EU – Economic achievements and challenges.
>> Commission report. Five years of an enlarged EU. Economic achievements and challenges.

Advantages for the entire EU

The enlargement has contributed to significant improvements of living standards in new EU countries, to modernisation of their economies and to more stabilised institutions and laws. It has created new investment and export opportunities for enterprises in the older Member States. The EU has benefited as a whole from increased trade between EU countries and has at the same time become more competitive.

EU tools to respond to the crisis

Rapid integration brought incentives for growth. In some new EU countries, however, it has also created vulnerabilities that have been aggravated by the current global recession. But the EU has the tools to respond to the crisis.
The EU’s stability and growth pact and jobs and growth strategy promote sound public finances and structural reforms. In addition, the EU provides financial support from the structural and cohesion funds, European Investment Bank and the EU's balance of payments facility.

Looking ahead, the Commission notes that the economic slowdown may offer opportunities for deep, growth-enhancing policy reforms – essential to promote continued integration, close gaps in income, ensure a prominent role for the EU in the global economy and to help it welcome new countries in the future.