European Union Enlargement: Reunifying Europe

The enlargement of the European Union, which will almost double its membership of fifteen countries, is its most important project. The other tasks which the Union has in hand at the beginning of this century – the single currency, and the development of Europe’s role in foreign policy, security and defence – are of crucial importance, touching as they do on key areas of economic and political activity. But enlargement is an existential project. Bringing in the countries of central and eastern Europe, with more than 100 million people, will literally change the shape and dimension of the Union.

The World Today
Published 1 August 2001 Updated 26 October 2020 5 minute READ

Graham Avery

Chief Adviser, European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement

It is a remarkable compliment to the magnetism of the European Union (EU) – often overlooked by those who are already inside – that so many countries wish to join. In fact, for most of its life, the Union – previously the European Community and originally the European Economic Community – has been negotiating with those wanting to be admitted.

It is no coincidence that, as the Union prepares to enlarge, its members are once again discussing the basic questions: what do we want to do together – the EU’s ‘finality’; how should we do it? – its constitution and its institutions; and where will enlargement end? – its ultimate geographic configuration.

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