What are the Challenges and Opportunities of the proposed enlargement of the EU in 2004?
In May of 2004, the European Union is set to take on the largest amount of members it has ever done so at one time. This will unarguably turn the EU into the largest single trading bloc in the world. The ten countries intending to join are mainly East European: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
As can be seen, this will balance the European Union a little more favourably towards the East. This huge enlargement of the EU will obviously create many opportunities and benefits for both existing members states and new candidates, but with an accession of this scale there are numerous hurdles and obstacles to clear, which will be examined.
The expansion will cost approximately €25 billion over three years. The EU will spend €40 billion, but new members will pay €15 billion altogether. This sum divided by 370 million, the population of the EU puts the cost of enlargement per individual at €66 or £45. Although some regard this as money they would rather put to a different use, it is important to remember that the cost of German reunification from 1990 to 1999 was €600 billion. According to opinion polls, 51 per cent of EU citizens support the enlargement, with 30 per cent strongly opposed to it. The facts from the outset provide no significant problem, aside from that of general apathy towards European institutions. This problem, incidentally, will diminish as Europe grows larger.
Aside from this each candidate must fulfil conditions known as the Copenhagen criteria. These bring guarantees of democracy, rule of law and human rights and demand a functioning market economy compatible with that of the EU. Over the past few years candidates will have adopted thousands of pages of EU law, known as acquis communataire.