Estonia Latvia Lithuania Poland Czech Republic Slovakia Hungary Slovenia Romania Bulgaria Turkey Cyprus Malta Overview Economy Facts [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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 Introduction
The European Union has grown from six to 15 countries since its beginnings in 1951, and is now preparing for its fifth and largest round of expansion. Ten countries from central Europe and the Mediterranean signed an accession treaty in April 2003 and are on course to join the EU in May 2004. Two more countries, Bulgaria and Romania, may join in 2007. Turkey could start membership talks in 2005.

Click on the map to find out more about the candidate countries.

 Poland:
Poland is the largest of the candidate states with a population of 39 million. Its large and unwieldy agricultural sector (employing 27% of the workforce) makes it one of the most difficult for the EU to swallow. Because of Polish fears that foreigners -particularly Germans - will buy up large tracts of the Polish countryside, the EU has agreed that sales of farmland to outsiders can be suspended for 12 years. A referendum in June 2003 resulted in a 77.5% vote in favour of EU membership. The accession treaty was ratified in July.
 Poland:
Poland's economy slowed sharply in recent years, with high interst rates and high unemployment, while its economic reform programme has stalled. Poland's infrastructure and labour markets are in desperate need of an overhaul. The EU has criticised Poland for a lack of strategy for its massive agriculture sector, which poses a potential burden on the EU's coffers. One fifth of all Poles are employed on the land, but agriculture represents just 5% of GDP.
 Poland:
Population (millions): 38.6

GDP (bn euros): 196.7

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
9,410 euros (41% of EU average)

Unemployment:
20%

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
69%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Czech Republic:
The Czech Republic is one of the best-prepared candidates, though a dispute with Austria over the Temelin nuclear power plant overshadowed its final push for membership. The country's refusal to revoke the Benes decrees authorising the post-war expulsion of Germans, and confiscation of their property, also ruffled feathers in Austria and Germany. The European Commission voiced concern in 2002 about organised crime and corruption, and discrimination against the Roma minority. A referendum in June 2003 resulted in a 77.3% vote in favour of EU membership.
 Czech Republic:
The Czech Republic has done well out of its position as a neighbour to Austria and Germany and has high levels of foreign investment. But persistent economic crime and corruption have been a problem. The EU says financial regulations should be more transparent and the budget deficit should be reduced.
 Czech Republic:
Population (millions): 10.3

GDP (bn euros): 63.3

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
13,700 euros (59% of EU average)

Unemployment:
7.3% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
75% (2002)

Data for 2001 unless stated

 Hungary:
Hungary is well prepared both politically and economically. The final European Commission report on progress made by candidate states praised its reforms of public administration, and its well-functioning judicial system. But it said Roma - who constitute up to 10% of the population - "continue to suffer discrimination". Hungary still needs to reach agreement with Slovakia and Romania on implementation of a law offering rights and benefits to Hungarian minorities abroad. Of Hungarians who voted in a referendum on EU membership in April 2003, 83.8% were in favour.
 Hungary:
The Hungarian economy is in good health with high GDP growth and relatively low levels of unemployment. The government has also won praise in Brussels for its efforts to fight fraud, corruption and money laundering. But Hungary's massive agriculture sector is still in need of a major overhaul to come into line with EU standards and both the rail and energy sectors have yet to be restructured. The EU has also expressed concern about the level of public spending.
 Hungary:
Population (millions): 10.2

GDP (bn euros): 58

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
12,250 euros (53% of EU average)

Unemployment:
5.6% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
75%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Slovenia:
Slovenia, the only candidate country from the former Yugoslavia, is also the most prosperous, after Cyprus, with a per capita income some 70% of the EU average. The European Commission said in 2002 that it wanted Slovenia to continue upgrading border management, along what will become the EU's external border. A referendum in March 2003 resulted in an 89.6% vote in favour of EU membership.
 Slovenia:
With a GDP above that of Greece and close to Portugal's, Slovenia's economic qualifications for EU membership are not in doubt. Unemployment is low and the budget deficit has been cut. The agricultural sector has also been brought up to date. The EU's criticisms have focused on persistently high levels of inflation and the inflexibility of the Slovene labour market.
 Slovenia:
Population (millions): 2

GDP (bn euros): 20.9

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
16,210 euros (70% of EU average)
Unemployment:
6.4% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
59%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Estonia:
Estonia is one of the best-prepared countries for EU membership. In order to join the EU it will have to de-liberalise its economy. The Estonian Central Bank aims to join the euro in 2006 no other new member has set such an ambitious deadline. Concerns in Brussels about the treatment of minorities (the Russian minority, in particular) have largely abated. Estonians will vote on whether to join the EU on 14 September.
 Estonia:
The EU is full of praise for Estonia's success at modernising its administration. Growth remains high and the utilities, energy and agricultural sectors have been reformed. Estonians have also taken to information technology, boasting the largest number of internet connections of all the candidate countries. But the EU says the economy is hampered by an inflexible labour market which leaves many posts unfilled despite high levels of unemployment.
 Estonia:
Population (millions): 1.36

GDP (bn euros): 6.2

GDP per head (purchasing power standard):
9,240 euros (40% of EU average)

Unemployment:
12.4% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
69%

Data for 2001 unless stated

 Cyprus:
The failure in 2003 of a UN attempt to unite the island of Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion of 1974, means that in effect only the southern two-thirds will join the EU in 2004. There is still, in theory, time to resolve the dispute. Elections in the north in December 2003 could weaken president Rauf Denktash, who is one of the main obstacles to a deal. If there is no settlement by May 2004, and Turkey continues to refuse to recognise the (southern) Cypriot Government, this would complicate Turkey's own EU membership bid.
 Cyprus:
Cyprus is well prepared economically for membership and does not face the difficult transition of some of its east European counterparts. Unemployment and inflation have been kept low and the success of the tourist industry has ensured Cyprus's prosperity, although there have been worries about the transparency of the island's banks. However, the north of the Island is very poor - a situation aggravated by Turkey's recent economic turmoil. The prospect of EU aid has increased support in the north for a political settlement with the south.
 Cyprus:
Population (millions)
0.762

GDP (bn euros): 10.2

GDP per head (purchasing power standards)
17,180 euros (74% of EU average)

Unemployment
5.3% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports)
54% (2002)

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Slovakia:
Slovakia passed an important hurdle in 2002 when the electorate stopped short of voting back into office the authoritarian former Prime Minister, Vladimir Meciar. The European Commission welcomed constitutional changes to decentralise power and strengthen the independence of the judiciary. However, it was still concerned in 2002 about corruption, and recommended passing anti-discrimination laws to further improve the lot of the Roma minority. A referendum in May 2003 resulted in a 92.5% vote in favour of EU membership.
 Slovakia:
Slovaks always suffered as being the Czechs' poor relations and have been slower off the mark in establishing their market economy. Some privatisation and restructuring has been successfully completed but farming still needs a big shake-up. Unemployment remains high, as does the budget deficit. But the main blight is persistent corruption, a matter of major concern to Brussels.
 Slovakia:
Population (millions): 5.4m

GDP (bn euros): 22.8

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
11,200 euros (48% of EU average)

Unemployment:
19.4%

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
60%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Malta:
Unlike most other candidates countries, Malta has not had to overhaul its democratic and economic structures in order to join the EU, but the European Commission's final progress report in 2002 said it needed to do more to improve gender equality. A referendum in March 2003 resulted in a 53.6% vote in favour of EU membership. A protocol to the accession treaty says Malta is free to apply national legislation on abortion; a declaration also says that Malta's participation in the EU's defence and security policy does not affect its neutrality.
 Malta:
Malta meets many of the economic conditions for membership, although the EU would prefer to see more liberalisation of its markets and a lower budget deficit. Unemployment remains relatively low and GDP growth is steady. Malta has been part of a free trade zone with the EU since 1971.
 Malta:
Population (millions): 0.390

GDP (bn euros): 4.0

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
10,340 euros (1999)

Unemployment:
5.3%

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
33.5%
 Bulgaria:
Bulgaria hopes to join the EU in 2007, along with Romania. In a roadmap approved in 2002, designed to steer the two countries towards membership, the EU says Bulgaria needs to draw up a reform to improve its administrative capacity. It also says Bulgaria has a functioning market economy but that it would not yet be able to cope with the competitive pressures and market forces within the union. The 2002 progress report drew attention to poor conditions in institutions, particularly those for mentally disabled people, and the harsh treatment of people in pre-trial detention. Support for membership in Bulgaria is high, with 70% in favour.
 Bulgaria:
Bulgaria's creaking economy is struggling to make progress towards Europe's single market. Its main stumbling block is endemic corruption and weak public administration. The European Commission says the government's efforts to combat these scourges have had little concrete effect. The lack of transparency and effective regulation have also hindered investment and scared off entrepreneurs.
 Bulgaria:
Population (millions): 8

GDP (bn euros): 15.2

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
5,710 euros (25% of EU average)

Unemployment:
18.6% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
54.8%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Romania:
Like its neighbour Bulgaria, Romania hopes to join the EU in 2007. The European Union adopted a "roadmap" for both countries in 2002, spelling out the administrative and economic reforms they need to carry out before this can happen. Romania is making slow progress in adopting EU legislation. It has tried to improve its record on the treatment of children in institutions, discrimination against the Roma, and human trafficking, but with mixed results. The European Commission says corruption is "a cause for very serious concern". Support for membership is sky high, at 80% or more.
 Romania:
The weakness of Romania's administration has allowed corruption to flourish while the economy has languished. Romania is still far from ready to deal with the forces of the EU's single market. The government has renewed its efforts to meet a programme laid out by the IMF but inflation remains high, as does the budget deficit. In some sectors, such as agriculture, restructuring is barely under way.
 Romania:
Population (millions): 22.4

GDP (bn euros): 40

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
5,560 (24% of EU average)

Unemployment:
8% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
67.8%

Data for 2001 unless stated

 Latvia:
The European Commission's final progress report on Latvia in 2002 called for more efforts to integrate minorities, noting that some 22% of the population - mostly ethnic Russians - lacked citizenship. A ministry for integration began operations in 2003; it plans to campaign for ratification of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, after a referendum on EU membership in September. The 2002 report also called for action against corruption, and for work to improve conditions in pre-trial detention.
 Latvia:
Latvia has a functioning market economy, although it still needs substantial reform before it will be ready for EU membership. Privatisation has slowed and unemployment remains high. Although it has made progress on the crucial agricultural sector, it still needs to reform energy and telecommunications. Brussels would also like Latvia to step up its fight against organised crime, money laundering, fraud and corruption.
 Latvia:
Population (millions): 2.35 (2002)

GDP (bn euros): 8.5

GDP per head (purchasing power standard):
7,750 euros (33% of EU average)

Unemployment:
13.1%

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
61%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Lithuania:
Lithuania is a stepping stone between the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad and Russia proper. On 1 July 2003 it began preparing for entry into the EU Schengen "open borders" scheme by insisting that Russian citizens should obtain a travel document to cross the country by land. Lithuania has agreed to close the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which supplies much of its electricity, by 2009. In return the EU has agreed to contribute 285 million euros towards the cost of decommissioning between 2004 and 2006. A referendum in May resulted in a 91% vote in favour of EU membership.
 Lithuania:
Lithuania has shaken off the post-Soviet problems which have beset neighbouring Russia and has forged ahead with its transition to a market economy. Its programme of privatisation is almost complete. More reforms, however, will still be required before Lithuania is ready for the buffeting winds of the EU's internal market. Unemployment is persistently high and more reforms are needed in the agriculture sector.
 Lithuania:
Population (millions): 3.48

GDP (bn euros): 13.4

GDP per head (purchasing power standard):
8,960 euros (39% of EU average)

Unemployment:
13.1%

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
48%

Data for 2001, unless stated

 Turkey:
Turkey was awarded candidate status in 1999, but membership talks have yet to begin because of the country's dubious human rights record. Since 2001, new laws have been passed strengthening freedom of speech and freedom of the press, abolishing the death penalty, and allowing broadcasting and education in Kurdish. Steps have also been taken to reduce the power of the military in politics. The European Commission will check in 2004 whether the reforms are being implemented in practice. If they are, and if there are no outstanding problems relating to Cyprus, membership talks could begin soon afterwards.
 Turkey: Applicant
Turkey was plunged into economic crisis in 2001 - share prices plummeted, inflation soared and interest rates spiralled. The government focused on halting the decline and renegotiating Turkey's IMF loans. The country remains far from alignment with EU norms. Nonetheless there is healthy trade between the EU and Turkey and many Turkish people work in EU countries.
 Turkey: Applicant
Population (millions): 68

GDP (bn euros): 165

GDP per head (purchasing power standards):
5,230 euros (23% of EU average)

Unemployment:
10.4% (2002)

Exports within EU
(as % of total national exports):
52%

Data for 2001, unless stated

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