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2004 enlargement of the European Union

  Preexisting EU members in 2004
  New EU members admitted in 2004

The 2004 enlargement of the European Union was the largest single expansion of the European Union (EU), in terms of territory, number of states, and population; however, it was not the largest in terms of gross domestic product. It occurred on 1 May 2004.

The simultaneous accessions concerned the following countries, sometimes referred to as the "A10" countries: [1][2] Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Seven of these were part of the former Eastern Bloc (of which three were from the former Soviet Union and four were members of the Visegrad Group), one of the former Yugoslavia (together sometimes referred to as the "A8" countries), and the remaining two were Mediterranean islands and former British colonies.

Part of the same wave of enlargement was the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, who were unable to join in 2004, but, according to the Commission, constitute part of the fifth enlargement.


  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Negotiations 1.2
    • Accession 1.3
    • Progress 1.4
  • Free movement issues 2
  • New member states 3
    • Cyprus 3.1
    • Poland 3.2
  • Impact 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Referendum results
77.3 / 100
66.8 / 100
83.8 / 100
67.5 / 100
91.1 / 100
53.6 / 100
77.6 / 100
93.7 / 100
89.6 / 100


With the end of the Second World War in 1945, Europe found itself divided between a capitalist Western Bloc and a communist Eastern Bloc, as well as Third World neutral countries. The European Economic Community (EEC) was created in 1957 between six countries within the Western Bloc and later expanded to twelve countries across Europe. European communist countries had a looser economic grouping with the USSR known as Comecon. To the south there was a non-aligned communist federated country - Yugoslavia.

In 1989, the Cold War between the two superpowers was coming to an end, with the USSR's influence over communist Europe collapsing. As the communist states began their transition to free market democracies, aligning to Euro-Atlantic integration, the question of enlargement into the continent was thrust onto the EEC's agenda.


The Phare strategy was launched soon after to adapt more the structure of the Central and Eastern European countries (Pays d'Europe Centrale et Orientale (PECO)) to the European Economic Community. One of the major tools of this strategy was the Regional Quality Assurance Program (Programme Régional d'Assurance Qualité (PRAQ)) which started in 1993 to help the PECO States implement the New Approach in their economy.[3]

The Acquis Communautaire contained 3,000 directives and some 100,000 pages in the Official Journal of the European Union to be transposed. It demanded a lot of administrative work and immense economic change, and raised major cultural problems – e.g. new legal concepts and language consistency problems.

Copenhagen criteria Nuclear plants.[4]

Celebration in the Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels


The Treaty of Accession 2003 was signed on 16 April 2003, at the Stoa of Attalus in Athens, Greece, between the then-EU members and the ten acceding countries. The text also amended the main EU treaties, including the Qualified Majority Voting of the Council of the European Union. The treaty was ratified on time and entered into force on 1 May 2004 amid ceremonies around Europe.

European leaders met in Dublin for fireworks and a flag-raising ceremony at Áras an Uachtaráin, the Irish presidential palace. At the same time, citizens across Ireland enjoyed a nationwide celebration styled as the Day of Welcomes. President Romano Prodi took part in celebrations on the Italian-Slovenian border at the divided town of Gorizia/Nova Gorica, at the German-Polish border, the EU flag was raised and Ode to Joy was sung and there was a laser show in Malta among the various other celebrations.[5]


1 EU Association Agreement type: Europe Agreement for the states of the Fifth Enlargement.

Situation of policy area at the start of membership negotiations according to the 1997 Opinions and 1999 Reports.

s – screening of the chapter
fs – finished screening
f – frozen chapter
o – open chapter
x – closed chapter

  generally already applies the acquis
  no major difficulties expected
  further efforts needed
  non-acquis chapter — nothing to adopt
  considerable efforts needed
  very hard to adopt
  situation totally incompatible with EU acquis

Free movement issues

The "Polish Plumber" cliché adopted by Poland's tourism board to advertise Poland as a tourist destination on the French market. (English translation: "I am staying in Poland, come in large numbers")

As of May 2011, there are no longer any special restrictions on the free movement of citizens of these new member states.

With their original accession to the EU, free movement of people between all 25 states would naturally have applied. However, due to concerns of mass migration from the new members to the old EU-15, some transitional restrictions were put in place. Mobility within the EU-15 (plus Cyprus) and within the new states (minus Cyprus) functioned as normal (although the new states had the right to impose restrictions on travel between them). Between the old and new states, transitional restrictions up to 1 May 2011 could be put in place, and EU workers still had a preferential right over non-EU workers in looking for jobs even if restrictions were placed upon their country. No restrictions were placed on Cyprus or Malta. The following restrictions were put in place by each country;[6]

  • Austria and Germany: Restriction on free movement and to provide certain services. Work permits still needed for all countries. In Austria, to be employed the worker needs to have been employed for more than a year in his home country prior to accession. Germany had bilateral quotas which remained in force.
  • Cyprus: No restrictions.
  • Malta: No restrictions on its workers, but does have the right to migration into the country.
  • Netherlands: Initially against restrictions, but tightened up its policies in early 2004 and said it would tighten its policies if more than 22,000 workers arrived per year.
  • Finland: 2 years of transitional arrangements where a work permit would be granted only where a Finnish national cannot be found for the job. Does not apply to students, part-time workers, entrepreneurs, people living in Finland for non-work purposes, people who were already living in Finland for a year or people who would be entitled to work anyway if they were from a third country.
  • Denmark: Two years where only full-time workers can get a work permit, if they had a residence permit. Workers did not get welfare but restrictions only apply to wage earners (all the EU-10 citizens can set up a business).
  • France: Five years of restrictions depending on sector and region. Students, researchers, self-employed and service providers were exempt from the restrictions.
  • Spain: Two years.
  • Portugal: Two years, annual limit of 6,500.
  • Sweden: No restrictions.
  • Czech Republic and Slovakia: No restrictions.
  • Poland: Reciprocal limits, only British and Irish citizens had free access. Countries with looser or tighter limits face similar limits in Poland.
  • Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg: Two years.
  • United Kingdom: Welfare restrictions only, need to register though.
  • Ireland: No restrictions.
  • Hungary: Reciprocal limits for seven years.

Despite the fears, migration within the EU concerns less than 2% of the population.[7] However, the migration did cause controversy in those countries which saw a noticeable influx, creating the image of a "Polish Plumber" in the EU, caricaturing the cheap manual labour from A8 countries making an imprint on the rest of the EU. But the extent to which E8 immigration actually generated a lasting public backlash is debatable. Ten years after the enlargement, a study shows that increases in E8 migrants in Western Europe over the last ten years has actually been accompanied by a more widespread acknowledgement of the economic benefits of immigration.[8] Following the 2007 enlargement, most countries placed restrictions on the new states, including the most open in 2004 (Ireland and the United Kingdom) with only Sweden, Finland and the 2004 members (minus Malta and Hungary).[9] But by April 2008, these restrictions on the eight members (they continued for Romania and Bulgaria) had been dropped by all members except Germany and Austria.[10]

New member states


Since 1974 Cyprus has been divided between the Greek south (the Republic of Cyprus) and the northern areas under Turkish military occupation (the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). The Republic of Cyprus is recognised as the sole legitimate government by most countries, including the entire European Union, while the northern occupied area is recognised only by Turkey.

Cyprus began talks to join the EU, which provided impetus to solve the dispute. With the agreement of the Annan Plan for Cyprus, it was hoped that the two countries would join the EU together as a single United Cyprus Republic. Turkish Cypriots supported the plan. However, in a referendum on 24 April 2004 the Greek Cypriots rejected the plan. Thus, a week later, the Republic of Cyprus joined the EU with political issues unresolved. Legally, as the northern republic is not recognised by the EU, the entire island is a member of the EU as part of the Republic of Cyprus, though the de facto situation is that the Government is unable to extend its controls into the occupied areas.

Efforts to reunite the island continue as of 2014.


Accession of Poland to the European Union took place in May 2004. Poland had been negotiating with the EU since 1989.

With the fall of communism in 1989/1990 in Poland, Poland embarked on a series of reforms and changes in foreign policy, intending to join the EU and NATO. On 19 September 1989 Poland signed the agreement for trade and trade co-operation with the (then) European Community (EC). Polish intention to join the EU was expressed by Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki in his speech in the European Parliament in February 1990 and in June 1991 by Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Krzysztof Skubiszewski in Sejm (Polish Parliament).

On 19 May 1990 Poland started a procedure to begin negotiations for an association agreement and the negotiations officially began in December 1990. About a year later, on 16 December 1991 the European Union Association Agreement was signed by Poland. The Agreement came into force on 1 February 1994 (its III part on the mutual trade relations came into force earlier on 1 March 1992).

As a result of diplomatic interventions by the central European states of the Visegrád group, the European Council decided at its Copenhagen summit in June 1993 that: "the associate member states from Central and Eastern Europe, if they so wish, will become members of the EU. To achieve this, however, they must fulfil the appropriate conditions." Those conditions (known as the Copenhagen criteria, or simply, membership criteria) were:

  1. That candidate countries achieve stable institutions that guarantee democracy, legality, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.
  2. That candidate countries have a working market economy, capable of competing effectively on EU markets.
  3. That candidate countries are capable of accepting all the membership responsibilities, political, economic and monetary.

At the Luxembourg summit in 1997, the EU accepted the Commission's opinion to invited (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus) to start talks on their accession to the EU. The negotiation process started on 31 March 1998. Poland finished the accession negotiations in December 2002. Then, the Accession Treaty was signed in Athens on 16 April 2003 (Treaty of Accession 2003). After the ratification of that Treaty in the Polish European Union membership referendum, 2003, Poland and other 9 countries became the members of EU on 1 May 2004.


Member countries Population Area (km²) GDP
(billion US$)
per capita (US$)
 Cyprus 775,927 9,250 11.681 15,054 Greek
 Czech Republic 10,246,178 78,866 105.248 10,272 Czech
 Estonia 1,341,664 45,226 22.384 16,684 Estonian
 Hungary 10,032,375 93,030 102,183 10,185 Hungarian
 Latvia 2,306,306 64,589 24.826 10,764 Latvian
3,607,899 65,200 31.971 8,861 Lithuanian
 Malta 396,851 316 5.097 12,843 English
 Poland 38,580,445 311,904 316.438 8,202 Polish
 Slovakia 5,423,567 49,036 42.800 7,810 Slovak
 Slovenia 2,011,473 20,273 29.633 14,732 Slovene
Accession countries 74,722,685 737,690 685.123 9,169 10 new
Existing members (2004) 381,781,620 3,367,154 7,711.871 20,200 11
EU25 (2004) 456,504,305
Part of a series on the
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7 years after the enlargement, the EU is still "digesting" the change. The influx of new members has effectively put an end to the Franco-German engine behind the EU, as its relatively newer members, Poland and Sweden, set the policy agenda, for example Eastern Partnership. Despite fears of paralysis, the decision making process has not been hampered by the new membership and if anything the legislative output of the institutions has increased, however justice and home affairs (which operates by unanimity) has suffered. In 2009 the Commission sees the enlargement as a success, however until the enlargement is fully accepted by the public future enlargements may be slow in coming.[10] In 2012 data published by the Guardian shows that that process is complete.[11]

The internal impact has also been relevant. The arrival of additional members has put an additional stress on the governance of the Institutions, and increased significantly overheads (for example, through the multiplication of official languages). Furthermore, there is a division of staff, since the very same day of the enlargement was chosen to enact an in-depth reform of the Staff Regulation, which was intended to bring significant savings in administrative costs. As a result, employment conditions (career & retirement perspectives) worsened for officials recruited after that date. Since by definition officials of the "new" Member States were recruited after the enlargement, these new conditions affected all of them (although they also affect nationals of the former 15 Member States who have been recruited after 1.5.2004).

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Phare Programme
  4. ^ Nuclear Energy in the CEECs
  5. ^ EU welcomes 10 new members, CNN 1 May 2003
  6. ^ EU-25: Member States grapple with the free labour market, Euractive 17/08/04
  7. ^ Who’s afraid of the EU’s Largest Enlargement? Report on the Impact of Bulgaria and Romania joining the union on Free Movement of People, European Citizen Action Service 28/01/08
  8. ^ Britons feel better about immigration when Eastern Europeans settle here, Anne-Marie Jeannet, The Times
  9. ^ EU free movement of labour map, BBC 28/07/08
  10. ^ a b EU still 'digesting' 2004 enlargement five years on, EU observer
  11. ^ Europe in numbers: who gives what in, who gets what out?

External links

  • Poland's way to EU
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