Eastern Enlargement of the European Union: Sour Grapes or Sweet Lemon?
30 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2001
The objective of this article is to contribute to the ongoing discussion about the potential enlargement of the European Union (EU) 1. Ten countries with economies in transition, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia (the 'Luxembourg group'), Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia (the 'Helsinki group'), and two market economies, Cyprus and Malta, negotiate full membership with the EU 2. The article focuses mainly on the economic dimension of the enlargement. The general terms for enlargement are known, but the specific terms are being negotiated. Prior to any further enlargement, the EU will have to settle two internal issues. First, in accordance with the Maastricht Treaty, the Union became an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) for 11 member countries on 1 January 1999. The second issue, is institutional change. The EU has to change its organizational structure in preparation for the decades to come when it is expected to enlarge and even double the number of its member countries. This article begins by looking at the strategic goals of the EU. It then examines the economic structure in the acceding countries. Entry criteria and cost and benefits that may come from EU enlargement are analysed in separate sections. The conclusion is that the acceding transition countries do not satisfy most of the economic criteria for EU entry at the moment. Some of these countries may in the future need to invest a lot of effort, time and money of their own to comply with the economic requirements for full membership.
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