Category: European history

The enlargement of the European Union

The expansion of Europe :

The 20th century has been really shaken by the war which ruined the European continent. This  disaster compelled  the nations to gather in order to prevent  new conflicts  from starting again. Since its creation, the European Community has  led a policy of enlargement. The number of members has grown from 6 to 28.

History :

– The Western nations of  Europe created the Council of Europe in 1949

– The Schuman declaration on May 9th, 1950 is considered as the beginning of the European construction.

– March 25, 1957, the founding states (Belgium, France, Italia, Luxembourg, West Germany and Netherlands) signed the treaty of Rome. This treaty established the European Economic Community (EEC) whose first goal was the free circulation of people, of goods and services between Member States.

–  January  1st 1973,

3 new countries joined the EU (which is not called like this yet) Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

     Jens Otto Krag, the Danish State Minister

  Jack Lynch, the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach)

 Edward Heath, the British Prime Minister.

– January 1 1981: 

Greece entered the European Union.  It became eligible since its military regime fell and since its democracy returned. The European Union  has then 10 members.

– January 1, 1986: 

Spain and Portugal entered  the Union.

Membership in the union of these two countries was possible after  the overthrow of the Salazar regime in Portugal in 1974 and the death of General Franco of Spain in 1975 which brought an end the last dictatorship in Europe as countries engaged to restore democracy.

– February 7, 1992

Treaty of Maastricht: European community changed its name into to the European Union.

– In 1993, the treaty of Maastricht is applied. It give birth the European union and a new step in the construction of a political community at the continent scale.

–  January 1 1995

Austria, Finland and Sweden joined  the EU.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Germany was reunified. Former Germany is therefore also entering in the European Union.

– 1997:

The first negotiations with the Union begins with various eastern countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia and with Mediterranean islands such as Cyprus.

Adoption of a series of three criteria that countries will be obliged to fulfil to join the EU: the existence of democratic institutions, the presence of a functioning market economy, and capacity to resume “acquis communautaire”.

– 1 May 2004

After several years of negotiations and reforms 10 new countries joined the European Union: Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as two islands Cyprus and Malta.

There were 25 Member Countries.

Planned accession for Bulgaria and for Romania under way

Croatia and Turkey are also candidates

– January 1, 2007

Romania and Bulgaria joined EU

Signature of the Treaty in 2005 by Salomon Passy, the Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Meglena Kuneva, the Bulgarian Minister of European Affairs.

Signature of the Treaty in 2005 by the Roumanian President Traian Basescu and Calin Popescu, his Prime Minister.

– July 1st, 2013

Croatia became the 28th member state of the European Union

  Croatian president Ivo Josipovic (left)

Nowadays , eight countries are negotiating to enter the European Union: turkey, the ancient republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro, Iceland and Serbia. To enter in the European Union, there are different criteria to fullfil:

  •      Political criteria: the state must have a policy based on human rights and with a democracy.
  •      Economic criteria: a great economy and the ability to cope with competition inside the European union.
  •     The ability to apply the policy of the European Union.

France in European’s construction

Drapeau européenAfter World War II, an effort is made to unite the countries of Europe. Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands became united in 1949 with the creation of the Council of Europe. Jean Monnet, a high-ranking French civil servant, and Robert Schuman, a French statesman who will become president of the European Parliament, were at the origin of the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952 to expand the cooperation between the six “founding members”, Jean Monnet is named president of this community.

During the 1950s, Europe needed to be more united than ever because of the Cold War and France wanted an economic union. That’s why, the Treaty of Rome which was signed in 1957, created the European Economic Community in order to let people and goods moving freely in Europe without taxes. Then additional countries joined the community and reduced the influence of France. The Single European Act was signed in 1987. The goal was to create a “single market”. France agreed with this act with the aim of reviving links with Germany. Europe was more unified in 1989 with the destruction of the Berlin Wall. The Treaty of Maastricht which was signed in 1992 created the European Union and was at the base of the creation of a new currency for all Europe, the Euro.

Today, treaties and laws are created by the “institutional triangle” that is composed of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission.

The European Council is composed of the heads of governments. It is in charge of the general policy and priorities.

                         European Council – Brussels, december 2010

The European Parliament counts 754 deputies, 736 have been elected in 2009 for five years among the 27 countries of European Union. Concerning France, it is represented by 74 deputies (about 10% of seats) coming from 8 electoral districts. This Parliament sessions occure in Brussels and Strasbourg. This institution possesses the legislative power.

                                              European Parliament in Strasbourg

The European Commission is made of 28 commissioners (one for each country) including the president and the vice-president. It possesses the executive power.

EU Commission urges Malta to submit river basin plans


The EU Commission in Malta

But the EU includes other institutions like the European Union Justice Court, the European Court of Auditors… The Committee of Regions is also an important institution, it counts 344 members named for 4 years. 24 members are French (7% of members) chosen by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. This institution enables local and regional authorities to express their view in the European policy for regions, departments and municipalities. The European Economic and Social Committee is one of the oldest institution, it counts 344 members whose 24 are French (7% of members) who are named by the French government for 4 years. Its role is to advise the other institutions by putting forward their opinion in the economy.

In each institution, France represents the largest part of the seats with Germany, Italy and United Kingdom (except in the Parliament, it is just behind Germany). Moreover, one building of the Parliament is located in Strasbourg. It proves the key role of France in Europe thanks to his influential position. Indeed,  we can say that France runs the European Union with the countries previously quoted.

The last countries entered into the European Union

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.