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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: EU Enlargement  
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EDITIONS
EU Enlargement Friday, 12 June, 1998, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
A wider union
The
The six most-favoured applicants
The process of EU enlargement is now well underway. Negotiations have begun between the EU and six so-called 'fast track' countries.

The Central and Eastern European countries of Latvia, Estonia Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and the Slovak Republic have all applied for membership of the European Union.

A decision was taken at the Luxembourg summit of European Union leaders in December 1997 to begin 'pre-accession' discussions with all these countries, but to allow the 'fast track' countries that were deemed better prepared for EU membership, Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, Estonia and Slovenia to proceed with negotiations more quickly.

At the same meeting in Luxembourg it was decided that the EU would begin and progress enlargement negotiations with Cyprus, which originally applied for EC membership in July 1990.

Turkey
Turkey has been hoping to join the EU for 30 years.
Turkey is still a stumbling block. It first applied to join the EEC (as it then was) 30 years ago. Since then, Turkey has had the galling experience of watching nine other countries, including its neighbour and traditional adversary, Greece, successfully join the Union. Its own application has been kept under review.

The EU cites lack of economic development and human rights abuses as reasons for rejecting Turkey's applications.

Why enlarge?

There is a big gap between the rhetoric of EU countries and the realities of the enlargement process to central and eastern Europe. The eventual advantages to EU citizens are undeniable. It will create a bigger internal market, more consumers to sell to, more business opportunities, and promote stable, prosperous neighbours.

But the process of helping the poorer central and eastern European countries to modernise their economies has its costs, and protectionist countries in the EU fear the flooding of their markets with cheap central and eastern European goods.

So while every EU leader insists that enlargement must happen, they have dragged their feet and continued to block imports from central and eastern European countries, which would have eased some of the pain of transition to a market economy. However, these imports could have cost jobs in Western Europe in a recession partly caused by the reunification of Germany in 1990.

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