The EU has been amended a lot geographically speaking. When it was created in 1957, the organisation was composed of 6 nations : Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France. The main reason for this unification was due to Europe’s suffering after the two world wars ; the result of the wars was disastrous politically. The EU went through a huge modification in 1999, when all the member states reached an agreement for the implementation of a unique currency : the euro, which made the commercial exchanges easier between the nations of the EU.
I/ How do you become a member of the EU?
To join this union, you have to go through a long and complex process. Each nation has to complete all the criteria, and comply with all the rules defined by the EU. During this period, the future members receive many benefits including financial, administrative and technical aid.
The Union had 6 members in 1957 and now it includes 28 members.
The objectives of the EU
The EU has two main goals: economic prosperity and the promotion of democracy. In other words: To stimulate the economic growth of each country and to consolidate the ideology of democracy, especially ex-dictatorship as in USSR or Germany.
Which countries can become members of the EU ?
“All European states who respect the principles enounced on the 6th become a member of the union” according to article n°49 of the Maastricht Treaty (1992).
Nowadays, the countries that want to join the EU have to ask the EU council. It judges unanimously after the consultation of the European Committee and the European Parliament. But this membership can be realized thanks to specific criteria, defined in 1993 in Copenhagen during the European Council. These criteria are economic, political, and follow the objectives exposed in the previous article.
In the accession process, the treaties on which the European Union is based are subject to an agreement between the Member States and the applicant States (confirmations by national parliaments or referendums).
Which countries can become a member in the future ?
In 2009, the countries who had officially asked to become members were: Turkey, Macedonia and Croatia.
The potential candidates are Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Iceland.
Why become a member state ?
The enlargement of the EU has many advantages for the nations which want to become members.
First, an economic advantage : the disappearance of the customs, and the appearance of a unique market and a monetary union for some of them. Moreover, EU bids to the members the access to a secure market in which all the states have to respect the same rules (protection of consumers, competition etc…)
Secondly, the expansion of the EU allows developing agriculture, hence the membership of such agricultural countries such as Hungary, or Poland.
Thirdly the EU is favorable to the students who want to acquire some new knowledge in different European countries thanks to ERASMUS.
To conclude, the EU will become a massive block, able to face the major global powers. But even if it presents many advantages, the conditions to access to it are not always respected, especially the countries who want to integrate the euro area.
II/ EU since 2004
In May 2004, the EU hosted 15 new countries, who had also integrated the Schengen space, but not the one which have integrated the EU since 2007.
In 2002 : Cyprus, Estonia, Hungry, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia.
Today the EU is composed of 28 countries. But this expansion creates advantages and disadvantages.
The positive face is that the territory has increased by 25% and the population by 20%. But the dark side is that the GDP per capita only increased by 5% and the disparity are twice as much as before.
But, we can see that the gap between the new members and the older members has been reduced before the crisis of 2009, because after that the new members have been more affected than the other members, they saw their growth stopped.
POLAND : This country had a broad favorable public opinion. Among the 28 countries that compose the EU, Poland remains the most enthusiastic. This country has a large share in the vote at the European Council (the same as Spain) : 50 members at the center of the European Parliament. In total, since its admission, Poland has received EUR 50 billion in aid. The situation changed for the worse in 2009, but the GDP growth has remained positive.
THE CZECH REPUBLIC : The Czech policy is very liberal and it advocates the idea of a Europe without borders. But the political party represented at the parliament remains suspicious about the means made by the EU. The increase of the Czech public deficit delays its adhesion to the European money, which should happen in 2015-2016.
SLOVAKIA : The adhesion to the EU has been supported by 92% favorable responses to the referendum. The transition from the original currency to the euro was seen as a political objective : it was done in 2009. But this country was really dependent on the automotive industry. Its economy experienced the most significant recession in its history in 2009 with a decrease of 4,7% of its GDP.
ESTONIA : This country pays particular attention to the policies of the EU. It satisfies all the conditions required by this Union and from an economic point of view it has a smaller public debt than the EU. It went through two years of recession (2008-2009) but achieved static growth in 2010.
LATVIA : It attached a lot of importance to it admission to the European Union because it prides itself on its security and prosperity. Latvia has known a huge economic growth thanks to inflation. Moreover this country has also been affected by the economic crisis. That is why it has received international aid of EUR 7, 5 billion After 3 years of recession, Latvia experienced more growth than expected, which enabled it to integrate into the eurozone on 1st January 2010.
LITHUANIA : It was in charge of the external borders of the EU with Russia and Belarus. The priority of the country is to develop an energy policy. Since its adhesion in 2008, Lithuania has known an annual growth rate of 7 and 9%. But in 2009 it was affected by the economic crisis, like all the European countries, and it experienced a recession of 15%, one of the most significant of Europe.
CYPRUS : This adhesion guaranteed security to the Cyprus. The 1st of July 2008, just four years after its acceptance into the EU, Cyprus adopted the euro. Cypriots are very involved in Europe. They had a really high level of participation for the last European election. This country has not grown economically since the crisis of 2009.
MALTA : The adhesion of Malta was complicated, and triggered a national political debate. But now, this country has succeeded in meeting all the necessary requirements for admission, and became a member of the eurozone in 2008. The GDP has increased by 0, 9% after the end of the crisis. Nowadays, the Maltese are proud of their European nationality.
BULGARIA : This country deals with its foreign policy problems first, and has created a system of cooperation and verification. Thanks to this, Bulgaria has made advances in fighting corruption, laundering, and organized crime. Its main objectives remain the adhesion to the Schengen space and the eurozone.
ROMANIA : In terms of economic development, Romania received EUR 20 billion from 2007 to 2013. Romanians sees this integration as a break-up with the communism period. It was one of the more productive European countries before the crisis, and now it has to ask for international financial aid to settle its problems.
CROATIA : This country filed its application in 2003, but the Member states were in a bad economic situation at that time. The GDP of Croatia is 40% under the European level, and 20% of its population is unemployed. So its population remains doubtful for the adhesion of Croatia to the EU, which is violently affected by the crisis. This country will join the Schengen space and adopt the euro in 2015. Finally, this country received EUR 15 billion before becoming a European state.
By Joséphine and Pauline.