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Milestones of the EU
First moves towards enlargement
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1998: First moves towards enlargement
Map: Two waves of candidates
The EU takes its first steps eastwards and opens negotiations with six countries hoping to join the union.

Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Cyprus become the 'first wave' of applicants.

Applicants negotiate conditions for accepting the body of European laws, also known as the acquis communautaire. Most importantly for the candidates, the negotiations decide in which areas of the law they may be granted opt-outs, allowing them to phase in reforms more slowly.

A year later, another group of countries gets its foot in the European door when at the Helsinki summit in December 1999 the EU decides to open membership negotiations with another six countries.

Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Malta now form the second wave of candidate countries.

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