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Critically examine the factors that ultimately led to the enlargement of the EU in 2004. What are the stages and debates?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The end of the Cold War and the Eastern European countries
  3. The instauration of an economic market
  4. The link between the EU and Eastern Europe
  5. Divergences between the member States of the Union
  6. 1989 and 1993: The idea of an EU enlargement
  7. Conclusion: The 2004 enlargement of the European Union
  8. Bibliography

According to the article 43 of the European Community treaty, 'any European State may apply to become a member of the Union[...]the conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded which such admission entails shall be the subject of an agreement between the member states and the applicant states'. Geographically, Europe can be defined as 'the western peninsula of the Eurasian landmass, stretching from Iceland in the west to the Urals in the east, and from Pitzbergen or Novya Zemlaya in the north to Gibraltar in the south' . Therefore, the will of Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovenia to be part of the European Union was legitimate. If the old continent demonstrates some unity, the gap between the west and the east shows that diversity remains the main feature of Europe. On the 5th of March 1946, Churchill, in a speech pronounced in Fulton, talked for the first time about the iron curtain that fell on Europe. This metaphor was meant to describe the bipolarisation of the world, with the opposition of the communist bloc and the capitalist bloc. At the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism, the metaphor should have become obsolete. Yet the inequalities and the antagonisms between Western and Central and Eastern Europe are still in 1991 very strong and the separation between the capitalist European states and the former communist states remains clear. Nevertheless, 13 years later, countries which had been under Moscow's sphere of influence become part of the European Union. What are the factors that led to the 2004 EU enlargement? As all waves of integration, the process is not simple and never certain. Which were the main stages and the debate in this enlargement? How and why has the EU enlargement 'progressed from a utopian vision to a practical, and vastly ambitious, project' ?

[...] Germany, aware of the difficulties of the central and eastern countries due to its history and its reunification was in favour of a quick integration. Germany also wanted to stabilise its frontiers. Great Britain agreed with Germany but with different motivations: the enlargement was seen by London as a way to balance the strong political integration of the EEC . At the end Paris won the debate. If the French idea of a European Confederation was strongly refused by Vaclav Havel, who represented the Central and Eastern European countries, Paris managed to bloc any formal engagement in a future enlargement. [...]

[...] The EU has always pursued these two objectives in parallel, and never was the one an obstacle for the other' The enlargement was therefore proposed in 1993 during the meeting of the EU Council Copenhagen to all the countries that would fulfil criterions such as establishment of democracy, respect of Human rights and the integration to a market economy. Yet at this meeting no timetable was established. In December 1997, the process of adherence started. It was decided that in March 1998, the five countries the most advanced in the integration of the acquis communutaires (Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia) could start to negotiate their adherence. [...]

[...] In reality, although in 2004 there are still strong inequalities between the west and east, the economic, political and social transition of the eastern European countries was quicker than the expectations. Because of the rapidity of the changes, it seemed to be easier to integrate them without risking a strong unbalance within the EU institutions. In fact it had even become economically interesting to integrate these countries. The enlargement would result in the creation of a market of 500 millions consumers and the creation for the western firms of new openings in different sectors. [...]

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