EU member states in 2004
  New EU member states admitted in 2004

The largest enlargement of the European Union (EU), in terms of number of states and population, took place 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 and still are member states of the Central European alliance Visegrád Group). Slovenia was a non-aligned country prior to the independence, and it was one of the former republics of Yugoslavia (together sometimes referred to as the "A8" countries), and the remaining two were Mediterranean island countries, both member states of Commonwealth of Nations.

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.


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
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (September 2011)

See also: History of the European Union


With the end of the Second World War in May 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.

Between 1989 and 1991, 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.


Malta held a non-binding referendum on 8 March 2003; the narrow Yes-vote prompted a snap election on 12 April 2003 fought on the same question and after which the pro-EU Nationalist Party retained its majority and declared a mandate for accession.

Poland held a referendum on 7 and 8 June 2003: Voting Yes by a wide margin of about 77.5% with a turnout of around 59%

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 residence. 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.[4]

Limerick, Ireland's third largest City, hosted Slovenia as one of ten Cities and Towns to individually welcome the ten accession countries. The then Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop was Guest Speaker at a business luncheon hosted by Limerick Chamber.


This article or section uses color as the only way to convey important information. To meet Wikipedia's web accessibility guidelines, please help improve this article or section so it is easier to read by those with disabilities by adding an additional means for these readers to access the relevant information. See the guides to editing for accessibility at contrast and colors. (July 2023)
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (March 2014)

Czech Republic Slovakia
EU Association Agreement 1 negotiations start 1990 1990
EU Association Agreement signature 4 October 1993 4 October 1993
EU Association Agreement entry into force 1 February 1995 1 February 1995
Membership application submitted 17 January 1996 27 June 1995
Council asks Commission for opinion 29 June 1996 17 July 1995
Commission presents legislative questionnaire to applicant Mar 1996 Mar 1996
Applicant responds to questionnaire Jun 1997 Jun 1997
Commission prepares its opinion (and subsequent reports) 15 July 1997 1997, 1998, 1999
Commission recommends granting of candidate status 15 July 1997 15 July 1997
European Council grants candidate status to Applicant[5] 12 December 1997 12 December 1997
Commission recommends starting of negotiations 15 July 1997 13 October 1999
European Council sets negotiations start date 12 December 1997[6] 10 December 1999
Membership negotiations start 31 March 1998 15 February 2000
Membership negotiations end 13 December 2002 13 December 2002
Accession Treaty signature 16 April 2003 16 April 2003
EU joining date 1 May 2004 1 May 2004
Acquis chapter
1. Free Movement of Goods x x
2. Freedom of Movement for Workers x x
3. Right of Establishment & Freedom to provide Services x x
4. Free Movement of Capital x x
5. Public Procurement x x
6. Company Law x x
7. Intellectual Property Law x x
8. Competition Policy x x
9. Financial Services x x
10. Information Society & Media x x
11. Agriculture & Rural Development x x
12. Food safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy x x
13. Fisheries x x
14. Transport Policy x x
15. Energy x x
16. Taxation x x
17. Economic & Monetary Policy x x
18. Statistics x x
19. Social Policy & Employment x x
20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy x x
21. Trans-European Networks x x
22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments x x
23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights x x
24. Justice, Freedom & Security x x
25. Science & Research x x
26. Education & Culture x x
27. Environment x x
28. Consumer & Health Protection x x
29. Customs Union x x
30. External Relations x x
31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy x x
32. Financial Control x x
33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions x x
34. Institutions x x
35. Other Issues x x

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

Further information: Freedom of movement for workers in the European Union

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;[7]

Despite the fears, migration within the EU concerns less than 2% of the population.[8] 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. The extent to which E8 immigration generated a lasting public backlash has been debated. Ten years after the enlargement, a study showed that increases in E8 migrants in Western Europe over the last ten years had been accompanied by a more widespread acknowledgement of the economic benefits of immigration.[9] 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).[10] But by April 2008, these restrictions on the eight members had been dropped by all members except Germany and Austria.[11]

Celebrations at Fort Saint Angelo commemorating Malta's entry into the EU

Remaining areas of inclusion

Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia became members on 1 May 2004, but some areas of cooperation in the European Union will apply to some of the EU member states at a later date. These are:

New member states


Further information: Cyprus in the European Union and Cyprus dispute § EU accession and the settlement process, 1997–present

Accession of Cyprus in EU 2004

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 every UN (and EU) member state except Turkey, 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 communities 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 excluding the British overseas territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia 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 2022. European Union membership forced the country to suspend its membership in the Non-Aligned Movement with Government of Cyprus insisting on maintaining close ties with the NAM.[12]


See also: Poland in the European Union

Accession of Poland in EU 2004

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 invite 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 2003 Polish European Union membership referendum, Poland and other 9 countries became the members of EU on 1 May 2004.

A8 countries

Eight of the 10 countries that joined the European Union during the 2004 enlargement are grouped together as the A8, sometimes also referred to as the EU8.[13] They are grouped separately from the other two states that joined Union in 2004, i.e. Cyprus and Malta, because of their relatively similar ex-Eastern block background, per capita income level, Human Development Index level, and most of all the geographical location in mainland Europe, where two other states from aforementioned 2004 batch are Mediterranean isles.[14][15]

These countries are:

According to BBC a particular reason for grouping the A8 countries was an expectation that they would be the origin for a new wave of increased migration to wealthier European countries.[15] They initially proved to be the origin of a new wave of migration, with many citizens moving from these countries to other states within the EU, later giving a way to newer EU members, like Romania, Bulgaria, and increasing migration from the southern Europe struck by the global financial crisis. In a limelight of Brexit, the attractiveness of United Kingdom, a market that used to hold the largest share in immigration from A8 states, has sharply declined, and number of EU citizens leaving UK has hit its record heights.[16]


Celebration in the Jubelpark in Brussels
Member countries Capital Population Area (km2) GDP
(billion US$)
per capita (US$)
 Cyprus[1] Nicosia 775,927 9,250 11.681 15,054 Greek
 Czech Republic Prague 10,246,178 78,866 105.248 10,272 Czech
 Estonia Tallinn 1,341,664 45,226 22.384 16,684 Estonian
 Hungary Budapest 10,032,375 93,030 102.183 10,185 Hungarian
 Latvia Riga 2,306,306 64,589 24.826 10,764 Latvian
 Lithuania Vilnius 3,607,899 65,200 31.971 8,861 Lithuanian
 Malta Valletta 396,851 316 5.097 12,843 English
 Poland Warsaw 38,580,445 311,904 316.438 8,202 Polish
 Slovakia Bratislava 5,423,567 49,036 42.800 7,810 Slovak
 Slovenia Ljubljana 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

At 12 years after the enlargement, the EU was still "digesting" the change. The influx of new members had 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 had not been hampered by the new membership and if anything the legislative output of the institutions had increased, however justice and home affairs (which operates by unanimity) had suffered. In 2009 the Commission saw the enlargement as a success, but thought that until the enlargement was fully accepted by the public future enlargements would be slow in coming.[11] In 2012 data published by the Guardian showed that that process is complete.[17]

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 May 2004).

Before the 2004 enlargement, the EU had twelve treaty languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Irish, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish. However, due to the 2004 enlargement, nine new official languages were added: Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Hungarian, Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese.

Economic impact

A 2021 study in the Journal of Political Economy found that the 2004 enlargement had aggregate beneficial economic effects on all groups in both the old and new member states. The largest winners were the new member states, in particular unskilled labor in the new member states.[18]

Political impact

A 2007 study in the journal Post-Soviet Affairs argued that the 2004 enlargement of the EU contributed to the consolidation of democracy in the new member states.[19] In 2009, Freie Universität Berlin political scientist Thomas Risse wrote, "there is a consensus in the literature on Eastern Europe that the EU membership perspective had a huge anchoring effects for the new democracies."[20]

See also


  1. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 October 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ White, Michael (21 July 2014). "Twenty years of Tony Blair: totting up the balance sheet". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  3. ^ "EURLex – e50004 – EN – EUR-Lex". Europa (web portal). Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ EU welcomes 10 new members, CNN 1 May 2004
  5. ^ See the 10th point of the Presidency Conclusions of the European Council in Luxembourg, 12–13 December 1997, European Council conclusions (1993–2003)
  6. ^ See the 11th point of the Presidency Conclusions of the European Council in Luxembourg, 12–13 December 1997, European Council conclusions (1993–2003)
  7. ^ EU-25: Member States grapple with the free labour market, Euractive 17 August 2004
  8. ^ "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" (archived link), European Citizen Action Service 28 January 2008
  9. ^ Britons feel better about immigration when Eastern Europeans settle here, Anne-Marie Jeannet, The Times
  10. ^ EU free movement of labour map, BBC 28 July 2008
  11. ^ a b EU still 'digesting' 2004 enlargement five years on, EU observer
  12. ^ Ker-Lindsay, James (2010). "Shifting Alignments The External Orientations of Cyprus since Independence". The Cyprus Review. 22 (2): 67–74.
  13. ^ Marcel Tirpak. "Migration in EU8 countries" (PDF). Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  14. ^ Stack Exchange. "When the A8 (ex-Eastern Bloc) states acceded, was the process defined by treaty or by the Ordinary Legislative Process?". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  15. ^ a b "Who are the "A8 countries"?". BBC News. 24 April 2005. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  16. ^ Agnieszka Gehringer (9 January 2019). "Brexit: Lower Immigration = Lower Growth". Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Europe in numbers: who gives what in, who gets what out?". The Guardian. 25 January 2012. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  18. ^ Caliendo, Lorenzo; Parro, Fernando; Opromolla, Luca David; Sforza, Alessandro (2021). "Goods and Factor Market Integration: A Quantitative Assessment of the EU Enlargement". Journal of Political Economy. 129 (12): 3491–3545. doi:10.1086/716560. hdl:10419/171064. ISSN 0022-3808. S2CID 3349273.
  19. ^ Cameron, David (2007). "Post-Communist Democracy: The Impact of the European Union". Post-Soviet Affairs. 23 (3): 185–217. doi:10.2747/1060-586X.23.3.185. S2CID 18266807.
  20. ^ Magen, A.; Risse, T.; McFaul, M. (2009). Magen, Amichai; Risse, Thomas; McFaul, Michael A. (eds.). Promoting Democracy and the Rule of Law | SpringerLink. doi:10.1057/9780230244528. ISBN 978-1-349-30559-9.