The advantages of an enlarged Europe

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Political advantages

The European Union has proved to be a bulwark of democracy, political stability and security since it was first founded. It is in the best interests of the EU to spread these advantages to more of Europe. For accession countries this means support to underpin their still young democracies and to ensure security. The historic and cultural unity that Europe has enjoyed for centuries, which was rudely interrupted by the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, has been restored. The EU, with its 28 member states, is a global player, a strong power whose influence can be felt around the globe.

Economic advantages

With the accession of ten new states on 1 May 2004, and of Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007, the European Union became the world’s largest single market, which is home to 500 million people. The community invested a lot of money to achieve this status. The economic success of its policy is tangible: accession states develop and become important economic partners. All in all the EU’s trade with the states of Central and Eastern Europe has quadrupled since 1989. Germany benefits particularly from this development. Today German companies sell more in the accession states than in the USA and Canada together. The more the states of Central and Eastern Europe adapt economically and structurally to bring their systems into line with the European Union, the better the opportunities for the internal market.

  • Financial accession assistance provided by the European Union helps vitalise economies in Central and Eastern Europe. Demand for imports rises, especially demand for imports of capital goods from neighbouring states in the west.

  •  Rising exports to the accession states ensures higher economic growth in the EU member states and secures jobs there. The gross domestic product of Germany and Austria alone has risen by about 0.5% per annum thanks to enlargement.

  • This trend is continuing, since most accession countries are growth markets. Germany’s trade surplus in goods and services over recent years demonstrates that quality, technology and experience in Germany can more than offset lower wages and production costs in Central and Eastern Europe.

  • The position of the EU among global competitors is improved. Additional trading options emerge with exporters and importers from third countries. The adoption of EU law makes accession states more attractive to investors. This has positive impacts on the old and new members of the European Union alike: higher investment and increased capital transactions accelerate economic growth and secure jobs in accession countries. Parallel to this, the prosperity gap will close through integration in the common market.  

  • Private businesses from the old EU states can found branches in the new member states more easily and underpin their international competitiveness. Existing jobs are saved and new ones created. Enlargement makes possible extensive economic links with neighbouring states in Eastern Europe. The former East Germany, in particular, can be expected to attract businesses engaged in trade with Eastern Europe.

Environmental advantages

Pollution knows no national borders. The environment can only be protected when states cooperate. For sustainable environmental protection in Europe the high environmental standards of the EU must apply in all states. In view of the existing environmental problems, the enlargement process offers an opportunity to solve these: 

  • Tightening up environmental standards in accession states can help tackle transnational air and water pollution.

  • The adoption of environmental regulations creates the same competitive foundations for all, and generates new markets for environmental goods and services.

  • The introduction of EU environmental standards accelerates the modernisation of manufacturing in Central and Eastern European states.

Advantages in terms of internal security

  • Enlargement expands the area that enjoys liberty, security and the rule of law to embrace new member states. This helps strengthen the war on organised and international crime. More effective measures can be taken to combat drugs trafficking and trafficking in people as well as terrorism. Money laundering and financial crime too can be tackled more effectively.
  • Asylum and refugee policies are standardised. Alongside equal reception conditions, common standards apply to asylum procedures and refugee status.

  • With the support of EU states, shortcomings in the field of justice and domestic affairs in accession states can be remedied, and suitable authorities and institutions put in place.