EU enlargement in 2004

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The EU 25 (2004)
  • Old member countries
  • The EU enlargement in 2004 was the fifth and largest expansion of the European Union . It was only made possible by the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War and was fixed on April 16, 2003 in Athens in the 2003 Accession Treaty , which came into force on May 1, 2004.
  • New member countries
  • Since the referendums were positive in all signatory countries, Estonia , Latvia , Lithuania , Malta , Poland , Slovakia , Slovenia , the Czech Republic , Hungary and Cyprus joined the EU on May 1, 2004 . The EU consisted of 25 member states until the accession or admission of Bulgaria and Romania (on January 1, 2007, see enlargement of the European Union ).

    On October 9, 2002, the European Commission recommended that these ten states be included. The decision to join was made on December 13, 2002 (conclusion of the accession negotiations) in Copenhagen ; the European Parliament approved on April 9, 2003. The accession treaty was signed on April 16, 2003 in Athens .

    Reasons for joining the acceding countries

    Reasons for the new members, especially for the states of East Central Europe , were not only economic advantages but also their historical and cultural connections to the other members of the European Union. The areas of the states of Eastern Central Europe were partly part of the German Empire or Austria-Hungary and have a mostly Protestant or Catholic , not an Orthodox population.


    Copenhagen criteria

    The European Council met in June 1993 and established the “ Copenhagen criteria ”. You require from a candidate country:

    • stable institutions as a guarantee for democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the protection of minorities
    • a functioning market economy and the ability to withstand competitive pressures and market forces within the EU
    • the ability to assume all the obligations of membership - that is, the entire law of the EU (the so-called " acquis communautaire ") - and the acceptance of the objectives of political union and those of economic and monetary union as the "acquis criterion" ".

    Europe and Association Agreement

    At the beginning of the 1990s, after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989/90 and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc , the EU concluded a Europe Agreement with the many Central and Eastern European countries with the aim of liberalizing trade, guidelines for political dialogue and cooperation Example in the fields of industry, environmental protection and transport. These agreements also include provisions and facilitations on the approximation of legislation to EU law .

    Support for accession efforts

    As part of a financing program, the EU made a total of 10.6 billion euros available between 1990 and 2000. From 2000 to 2003, 3.12 billion euros a year were available as pre-accession aid for the ten central and eastern European countries wishing to join. The funds for Bulgaria and Romania were gradually increased from 2004 onwards, so that the EU received around 1.2 billion euros annually in 2004, around 1.3 billion euros in 2005 and around 1.4 billion euros in 2006 as pre-accession aid for both Acceding countries granted together. Turkey received around 177 million euros annually from 2001 to 2003. The European Council in Copenhagen in December 2002 decided to significantly increase financial aid from 2004; Turkey should receive EUR 250 million in 2004, EUR 300 million in 2005 and EUR 500 million in 2006.

    Accession negotiations

    The European Council on 12./13. December 1997 in Luxembourg decided to start accession negotiations with Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus (which is why these 6 countries are sometimes referred to as the Luxembourg Group ). Furthermore, on 10./11. December 1999 Negotiations started with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Malta and Romania ("Helsinki Group"). The negotiations could take place on 12./13. December 2002 with all countries except Romania and Bulgaria.

    Ratification of the treaties

    Lithuanian postage stamp for the fifth enlargement

    The last remaining step was the ratification of the treaty by the previous members and by each of the accession states. Most of the previous member states did not hold referendums , but left this decision to the parliaments, while referendums took place in all the acceding countries except Cyprus. The following list shows the voting results:

    Results of the referendums
    date referendum Proportion of
    yes votes
    March 8, 2003 MaltaMalta Referendum in Malta 54% 91%
    March 23, 2003 SloveniaSlovenia Referendum in Slovenia 90% 60%
    Apr 12, 2003 HungaryHungary Referendum in Hungary 83% 46%
    10/11 May 2003 LithuaniaLithuania Referendum in Lithuania 91% 63%
    16./17. May 2003 SlovakiaSlovakia Referendum in Slovakia 92% 52%
    7th / 8th June 2003 PolandPoland Referendum in Poland 77% 59%
    13./14. June 2003 Czech RepublicCzech Republic Referendum in the Czech Republic 77% 55%
    Sep 14 2003 EstoniaEstonia Referendum in Estonia 67% 64%
    Sep 20 2003 LatviaLatvia Referendum in Latvia 67% 72%

    Particularities in the case of Cyprus

    The Republic of Cyprus fulfilled the application for membership as well as meeting the accession criteria with its current de facto territory. The territory occupied by Turkey in 1974 in violation of international law and then renamed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is considered a special EU territory, in which EU law cannot currently be enforced . Attempts at reunification of the two parts or a withdrawal of Turkish troops have so far failed (see History of Cyprus ).

    Festivals and events for the 2004 expansion

    On April 30, 2004, 11:00 p.m. CEST, due to the time difference, the first four states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Cyprus) were admitted to the European Union, one hour later, on May 1, 2004, at 12:00 a.m. Clock, followed by the remaining six states Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Ceremonies, TV galas and parties took place across Europe on the eve of enlargement (especially in the capitals of the candidate countries and at important border crossings).

    The then German President Johannes Rau gave a speech in front of the two houses of the Polish Parliament , the Sejm and the Senate. Until then, only former US President Bill Clinton , British Queen Elizabeth II and Pope John Paul II had the honor of giving a speech in front of parliament as a foreign guest . At the beginning of the speech there was a scandal : the nationalist one League of Polish Families (LPR) boycotted the Raus performance; When they were greeted, their MPs demonstratively left the room. The LPR was one of the fiercest opponents of Poland's accession to the EU. She justified her boycott against Rau with her protest against Poland's accession to the EU. Aleksander Kwaśniewski , the President of Poland, praised Rau: He was an “excellent German and a wonderful European” and had given a “very good, very important, very clever” speech. With a view to the less optimistic mood in both countries, Rau said: “Economic concerns are besetting the citizens. Old and new fears arise. “You have to take this seriously. But the epochal significance of accession should not disappear behind it.

    Fireworks on the city bridge between Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice

    At the German-Polish border between Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice , Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and his Polish counterpart Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz symbolically opened the border on the Oder bridge that connects the two cities. The most frequently used crossing between the countries was initially closed in the evening; there were great fireworks along the bridge over the Oder. In Zittau , at the German-Czech-Polish border triangle , the Saxon State Government held a ceremony on the evening of April 30, 2004, at which former Chancellor Helmut Kohl gave a speech. The festive event was continued during May 1st. In the morning, the German-Polish-Czech delegation presented the project to extend federal highway 178 over the Neisse to Poland and the Czech Republic and symbolically broke ground. After the delegates had entered the Golden Books of the border communities of Zittau, Bogatynia and Hrádek nad Nisou , the actual ceremony began. The heads of government of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic, Gerhard Schröder , Leszek Miller and Vladimír Špidla, hoisted the EU flag together. After being welcomed by the Saxon Prime Minister Georg Milbradt, they spoke out in all three languages ​​for a united Europe. The closing remarks were left to EU enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen . At around 2 p.m., the government delegations traveled to Dublin for the official reception of the new member states . Ireland held the presidency in the first half of 2004.

    In since September 3, 1947 divided city of Gorizia on the Italian-Slovenian border, which on the Italian side Gorizia and on the Slovenian side Nova Gorica is called the border fences were replaced on May 1 by rose bushes. At the celebration of the EU enlargement, EU Commission President Romano Prodi and Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop counted down . The 15,000 people from Nova Gorica in Slovenia and their 37,000 neighbors from Gorizia have been united under the EU umbrella since then.

    On the afternoon of May 1st, the official enlargement ceremony took place in the residence of Irish President Mary McAleese just outside Dublin . On this historic day for the peoples of Europe, we extend a warm welcome to the ten member states that will join the family group of the European Union , greeted the hostess. Then the flags of all now 25 EU countries were ceremoniously raised to the sound of the European anthem . The Philharmonic Choir of Irish Radio RTÉ intoned the anthem in German. The Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern , underlined the historical importance of the enlargement. “Our European Union is truly unique”, and said: “Today's enlargement is the best testimony to the success of the European Union.” The Irish Presidency did a lot to communicate the importance of the day. The fall of the Iron Curtain was finally completed and the division of the continent was overcome. Renewal and future were the main concepts that dominated the celebrations. As a symbol of the future, 25 children from the EU countries presented their flags to the heads of state and government. Gerhard Schröder (Federal Chancellor 1998-2005) was presented with the German flag by a boy whose father is Hungarian and whose mother is German. The boy is an example of the cross-border biographies on the old continent. He previously lived in Germany and Belgium and now in Ireland, where he is attending a French lyceum . He speaks German, Hungarian, English and French. Almost all of the children who presented the flags grew up in similarly multicultural conditions.

    The expansion was accompanied by television broadcasters in 34 countries as part of a Eurovision broadcast , and in Germany the ZDF broadcast . In the Konzerthaus Berlin on Gendarmenmarkt there were invited guests from politics, business and culture. The 10 new EU states were presented by prominent guests and short films, and there were live broadcasts to Warsaw with musical contributions.

    The European Parliament celebrated the eastward enlargement of the EU on May 3, 2004 in Strasbourg together with the 162 new members from the ten new states. An official ceremony was held before the opening of the first session with MEPs from the old and new EU countries; Children presented the flag of their country to all the speakers of the parliaments of the ten new member states. These flags were then given to the President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox . The 10 new flags were later hoisted in front of the EU Parliament. Speaker of Parliament Cox gave a speech, followed by Lech Wałęsa , Guest of Honor . The new MPs had around a year of preparation time in the EU Parliament, because after the signing of the accession treaty in Athens on April 16, 2003, at the invitation of Cox, they were already fully involved in everyday parliamentary work and parliamentary advisory work at the invitation of Cox. The number of MEPs to be appointed by each parliaments corresponded to the number of Members of the European Parliament to which the country concerned was entitled under the Accession Treaty, with the appointment of MEPs taking due account of the political composition of the respective parliament. The observers were allowed to attend the plenary sessions of the European Parliament as listeners. In the committees and delegations, the observers could be given the floor by the chairman, but here again they were not allowed to vote or run for office. The mandate of all MEPs ended at the end of the electoral term in June 2004. The European Parliament grew to 788 MEPs for one week. The following European Parliament, which in all 25 Member States on 13 June 2004 was elected , only had a total of 732 members, for the 15 old EU countries had reduced their number of seats.

    Transitional regulations for EU accession

    The nationals of the accession states became Union citizens within the meaning of Article 18 of the EC Treaty . Some of the relevant provisions of Community law, e.g. B. the free movement of workers were temporarily suspended for the nationals of the acceding countries due to the Accession Treaty and the Accession Act.

    Citizens of Cyprus and the Republic of Malta were able to enjoy full freedom of movement from the start of accession; Transitional regulations with restrictions on the free movement of workers were only provided for in the Act of Accession of the Central and Eastern European accession states.

    The transitional regulations provide for a “2 + 3 + 2 model” lasting up to seven years. The 15 "old" member states (all up to and including EFTA enlargement 1995) were able to retain their previous national regulations for access to the labor market for nationals of the Central and Eastern European accession countries for a transition period of initially two years and were thus allowed from Articles 1 to 6 of Regulation (EEC) No. 1612/68 (free movement of workers within the community - access to employment). After a review based on a report by the EU Commission, the member states were able to extend this regulation for a further three years, and then for another two years in the event of severe disruption to the labor market or the risk of such disruption.

    Enlargement of the commission

    With the enlargement of the EU, the European Commission also grew . Each country was given the opportunity to appoint a commissioner. In the Prodi Commission, which was in office until November 2004, they did not have their own portfolio. The line-ups in detail:

    The governments of Latvia ( Andris Piebalgs ), the Czech Republic ( Vladimír Špidla ) and Hungary ( László Kovács ) nominated new members for José Barroso's commission, which will be in office from November 2004 .

    Economic consideration

    General economic development

    In Europe of the 15, there was great uncertainty before the accession of the comparatively poor new countries as to how the economy would develop through enlargement. A few years after enlargement, it became clear that some fears were unfounded. Between 2004 and 2008, the economy in the 10 new EU countries grew by almost 23%, in the 15 old EU members it grew by around 8% in the same period. This narrowed the prosperity gap. The Western European economy was also able to benefit from the demand from the booming East. Nevertheless, concerns remain in the old EU countries.

    This is mostly dominated by the fear of cheap competition, which could flood their own markets and cost jobs. The competitive pressure, especially in the border areas to the new federal states, will certainly increase, but promises a positive development especially for these areas in the long term due to the proximity to markets in the east.

    The number of EU members rose from 15 to 25 (plus two thirds); Around 75 million people became EU citizens through accession (plus around 20%), and Europe's gross domestic product grew by less than 5%.

    The old economic structures in the accession countries have largely disappeared and have been replaced by more modern systems in the course of the transformation process. The market promises a huge pent-up demand for goods and services. The growth rates are higher than those in the old countries and thus also arouse hopes and desires in companies from abroad who want to benefit from the openness of the "new market". The foundations for this were laid by many companies before the official expansion. Investments were made, joint ventures planned in order to have the best possible starting position in the market and to secure shares.

    Some of the acceding countries had very ailing economies; they will probably need a long time to catch up with the old countries in economic terms. From the perspective of the old EU countries, their inclusion is an “investment in the future”. Countries like Spain and Portugal in particular could suffer from this, as they could lack funding for infrastructure due to redistribution, which they have received from the EU to a considerable extent up to now.

    The discussions also focused on the development of the common European currency, the euro . Will the stability of the euro be jeopardized or does enlargement mean a further step towards consolidating the exchange rate in competition with the US dollar? Here, too, experts do not agree. The overwhelming majority, however, do not expect destabilization but rather a strengthening, as the new federal states will have to pay close attention to compliance with the Maastricht criteria.

    In terms of economic policy, too, enlargement could have positive effects on the entire EU. The deadlock in the committees and reforms that are being pushed ahead too slowly should soon be a thing of the past due to the tougher competitive situation. In the new federal states, too, legal regulations of the EU must now be implemented. A point that is very important for various industries, such as B. the pharmaceutical industry. So far, they have expected their intellectual property to be stolen and have often refrained from making large investments in Eastern Europe.

    Industrial emigration

    In many comments on EU enlargement to the east, the question of the extent to which industry will relocate to the new accession countries is raised. The SPD General Secretary Klaus Uwe Benneter said that companies would operate “ without a fatherland ”, and that there was talk of mass emigration.

    According to the assessments of various research institutes, however, this development is likely to be rated quite absurd. The East currently offers a better wage cost situation, longer machine running times, better labor law conditions and lures with a low tax policy. However, this good basis will not last forever and the countries will adjust their cost structure to the old EU countries in the long term and have also been bound by EU regulations (environmental protection, product standards, competition rules, etc.) since accession.

    Furthermore, one aspect must be taken into account here. Surveys of various companies showed that it is not the good wage situation that speaks in favor of outsourcing, but rather the establishment of one's own company in the east, which is an attractive market with many good sales prospects. In any case, tax exemptions, excessive investment aid and special agreements in the course of EU integration are no longer possible, and Poland and the Czech Republic are often too expensive for labor-intensive industries. So emigration does not mean turning away from one's own state, but is urgently needed in the course of globalization and serves to open up new markets and cheaper material purchasing, which benefits the export of these companies and thus strengthens the base in their home countries.

    Even before 2004 there were joint ventures and increasingly intensive business contacts between companies in the old EU and companies in the accession countries. The expansion in the interests of the economy was carried out years ago, and from 2004 it could be expanded to be barrier-free.

    Effects on the labor market

    Since the first talks about enlargement of the EU, discussions have been going on in Germany about the effects on the labor market. First of all, it should be noted that the German economy and population have already faced such a situation once in history. On the one hand , the potential for an increased immigration movement was already greatly reduced by the immigration restrictions that were imposed on the new countries. On the other hand, successful completion in another country requires an adaptation to the requirements profile there. If this is not fulfilled, poorly paid unskilled labor or social assistance would hardly suffice to cover a living. Potential immigrants prefer to stay in their own country, where they feel comfortable, understand the language and have family support.

    It was predicted that due to the low wage costs and simple framework conditions, various companies based in Germany, especially in the labor-intensive sector, are considering outsourcing production facilities to other Eastern European countries and thus jobs in Germany will be lost.

    From a social science perspective, the EU's eastward enlargement process has ambivalent effects on employees, especially in the area of ​​labor market policy. The emphasis on neo-liberal principles were human rights standards, democratic, civilian and parliamentary policies and practices into the background so that equality laws ( equality policies ) against the EU guidelines on human rights and especially the gender mainstreaming were no specific requirement for EU accession. Against the background of the real socialist past of the newly acceded countries, there was a real devaluation of the position of women in some points and cuts in their civil, social and political rights in order to meet the demands of the market economy. Women in the "Eastern Bloc countries" in particular are affected by a rising unemployment rate due to the flexibilization of the labor market.


    German special stamp for the fifth expansion

    Due to its geographical location and economic ties to the acceding countries (Germany's exports to the new states approx. 50%), it was predicted that Germany would be severely affected by the European expansion to the east and that it would be one of the most affected by its effects.

    Experts represent a wide variety of opinions. The German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin does not foresee any dramatic development, as trade has already been largely liberalized. The volume of trade with the eastern states has almost doubled in recent years. Many companies from Germany are already active in the Eastern European countries and have established a good position in the market. Basically, the majority of German companies will not be subject to major upheavals from the formal enlargement of the EU on May 1st, since economic integration has been going on for years and is largely complete.

    However, there could be problems for the small craft businesses, especially near the border. Although it is not possible for Eastern European employees to get a job directly in Germany without a permit for the first seven years, companies close to the border, e.g. B. in the Czech Republic significantly expand their radius of action and overtake local companies by lowering prices.

    In Germany, structurally weak areas, which are threatened with the loss of EU support, are particularly concerned. East Germany, in which there is high unemployment, is very likely to lose its funding level (Objective 1 status) and thus important investment funds for construction and infrastructure. Experts assume that in the short term these areas will lose competitiveness against the new states due to high labor costs, but will benefit from expansion in the long term due to their direct proximity to new markets in the east.

    Experience on the anniversary 2005

    On the occasion of the 1st anniversary of the enlargement in 2004, Foreign Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner gave the Austrian broadcasting company ( Ö1 ) a detailed interview in which u. a. the following questions were dealt with:

    • Difficult commission work by larger committee? - The work was not more difficult, but different: z. B. greater diversity and transparency, more sensitivity to energy issues and to Russia (example Latvia).
    • Non-governability? - no threat, but better preparation of the meetings and more effective working methods necessary, v. a. because of often shorter speaking time. The more difficult decision-making is to be countered by a new constitution.
    • Lack of acceptance of the enlargement in the population : for many actually too quickly, u. a. because of imminent. Romania and Bulgaria , but the decision and timing was right. Otherwise there would have been great disappointment there too.
    • Fears of the population: exist, but a well-known phenomenon when there is insufficient knowledge. Necessary “homework” is contractually regulated (especially rule of law and the fight against corruption).
    • EU skepticism: it mostly concerns globalization , against which the European Union is providing appropriate answers (e.g. Kyoto process).
    • Foreign policy : enlargement as an opportunity to increase the weight of Europe, "export" the best social model in the world (socio-economic balance, workers' rights, etc.)


    Web links

    Individual evidence

    1. OJ. 2003, L 236/33 and C 277 E
    2. Poland Visit: Kohler's transition to Warsaw . Spiegel Online , July 15, 2004
    3. "What we are supposed to celebrate is a cause for sadness, not for joy, because the conditions were dictated to us, especially by Germany," said the party leader and deputy parliamentary group leader Roman Giertych afterwards.
    4. Data on economic growth EU15 vs. new EU countries ( Memento from May 3, 2009 in the Internet Archive ). From the Federal Statistical Office.
    5. Claudia Neusüß, Anna Holz: The EU equality standards. Reform engine for national women's and gender policy in the enlarged European Union? ( Memento of March 18, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (Download as PDF)