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Frequently Asked Questions

When will enlargement happen?

The ten central and southern Europe countries, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia are joining the EU on 1 May 2004. There are three EU candidate countries – Bulgaria, Romania who are approaching the end of accession negotiations and hope to join the EU in 2007 and Turkey who has not yet started negotiations.

Why do these countries want to join the EU?

Enlargement spreads the benefits of security, stability and prosperity. For countries of the former Soviet bloc these factors are of huge importance. Already, the candidates have stable democracies and a much improved respect for human rights. Their economies are growing fast, attracting high and rising levels of foreign direct investment and the majority of their trade is with the EU. Independent research suggests that accession could add 1.5% to the candidates’ economic growth rates each year. An academic study in 1997 by the Centre for Economic Policy Research estimated that the accession countries would, in a conservative scenario, bring an economic gain for the new members of €23 billion. A recent European Commission study estimated that enlargement could increase the growth of GDP in acceding countries by between 1.3 and 2.1 percentage points annually.

Do the citizens of the candidates support their accession?

25 million people from the member states have delivered a resounding YES in favour of joining the EU in the referendums held in the accession states to ratify the Treaty of Accession. Turn-out was also high for example; 91% in Malta and 92% in Slovakia; indicating that membership to the European Union enjoys wide public support.

Will enlargement create a new division in Europe between the EU and Russia, Ukraine and Belarus?

The EU's future neighbours have nothing to fear from enlargement. A larger EU will reinforce stability and security in Europe from which they can only benefit.

The British government recognizes the importance of existing links - such as trade - between acceding states and the EU’s future neighbours. Britain is committed to maintaining good relations with countries outside the future enlarged EU.

Will there be fewer members accepted in the future?

It is a positive thing that countries aspire to join the European Union. In addition to the current candidates, the countries of the Western Balkans have a clear perspective of membership once they have met the criteria. But all of those that have the right to apply must first meet the criteria for membership. Some countries will have further to go than others.

The UK does not rule out the possibility of membership for any European States who have the right to apply for membership under Article 49 of the Treaty of European Union.

Does the UK support Croatia’s bid for candidacy?

Croatia submitted an application for EU membership on 21 February 2003. Like any other applicant, Croatia must first fulfil the Copenhagen Political Criteria as set out at the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993.

How much will EU enlargement cost?

The Berlin European Council in March 1999 ring-fenced around £40 billion for new Member States from 2002-2006. This money is to cover spending on structural funds, agriculture and rural development, internal policies and administration.

This spending can be financed without increasing the ceiling of Member States’ financial contributions to the EU (which will remain at 1.27% of Member States’ combined GNP at least until 2006).

Why is public money being spent on Enlargement?

EU Enlargement is an important event that has been championed by successive British Governments and enjoys cross-party political support in Britain. On 1 May 2004, Europe will undergo it’s biggest expansion to date and yet public awareness is low. We believe that the public need to know exactly what enlargement is about and what it means to them.

The British public have no say on Enlargement?

The EU (Accessions) Bill received cross-party political support in its passage through parliament in 2003. None of the other existing Member States held a referendum on the current enlargement either.

What is the level of awareness in the UK about enlargement?

Research on EU enlargement awareness levels in the UK found that 49% of the UK public feel not at all well informed on EU enlargement. The latest Eurobarometer survey (December 2003) shows only 38% of the public support Enlargement with 22% indifferent and 40% against. This highlights the importance of raising awareness in the UK.

Will Britain still receive EU structural funds after enlargement?

Spending in Britain from the EU’s Structural Funds program is guaranteed until 2006, regardless of enlargement. After 2006, the amount of structural funds that Britain receives will depend on the agreement reached between Member States for the next financial period (2007-2013).

What is Schengen and will the candidates participate when they join the EU?

In 1985, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands decided to create a territory without internal borders. This meant an end to internal border checks for citizens travelling between the countries and common rules regarding visas, asylum and external border checks. This allowed free movement of persons without disturbing law and order. It was named Schengen after the Luxembourg town where the first agreement was signed. The Schengen agreement brings with it an increased co-operation between police, customs and the judiciary of participating member states and helps to combat important problems such as terrorism and organised crime. This intergovernmental cooperation expanded in 1997 to include all member states (except the United Kingdom and Ireland who negotiated to participate in some, but not all, of the Schengen rules) following the signing of the Treaty of Amsterdam which incorporated Schengen into EU law rather than as a separate Convention.

Candidates will therefore have to implement Schengen rules as part of their accession to the EU. However, the candidates will not have to apply all of the Schengen laws and practices in full immediately on accession. Implementing Schengen is a two-stage process. Internal border controls (e.g. between Czech Republic and Germany) will remain after accession for a period of implementation and evaluation. When the candidates’ external border management reaches the required standard, internal border controls can be lifted.

What is the benefit of allowing new Member State nationals regulated access to the UK labour market?

Free Movement of Workers can help to improve the UK's economic performance and complements other labour market policies as well as wider managed migration policy. The UK has a large number of vacancies (including in a number of key sectors and regions) and free movement of workers, by increasing the potential labour supply, helps to fill some of these as well as bringing new skills to the UK. This improves the flexibility of the UK labour market in addition to the contribution to taxes which working migrants make.

What are the advantages to UK businesses?

UK businesses will be able to compete on a "level playing-field" with all other businesses from the EU. Every country joining the EU must accept the EU laws and practices as a condition of entry to the EU including environmental, social and health and safety standards.

UK companies will benefit from a larger and more diverse labour market, cheaper imports, technology transfers and economies of scale. Independent research estimates that the accession of the new member states will add £1.75billion per year to UK GDP (equivalent to about £100 per household).

Membership to the single market requires all members to remove non-tariff barriers to trade and to liberalise services such as energy and telecoms, making it easier for UK firms to take advantage of export opportunities to the candidate countries. This process is already evident.

In addition, the mutual recognition of national standards will make it easier for UK companies to export to the candidate countries as they meet the requirements of EU legislation.

Further Information


The UK government has also produced a number of leaflets and brochures on EU enlargement, including:

EU Enlargement Update - March 2004  (PDF, 166KB) (a quarterly Foreign and Commonwealth Office leaflet on developments in the enlargement process)

If you would like hard copies of the above, please contact:

EU Enlargement Section
European Union Directorate (External)
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street

Email EU Enlargement Section

Information from other Government Departments

DEFRA - international information

Europe and World Trade

UKIntrastat This website has been set up specifically to assist traders who trade with any of the 10 new countries who joined the EU on 1st May 2004. The Intrastat system collects statistics on trade within the European Union and is the name given to the method of collecting information on the movement of goods between Member States of the European Union (EU).