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Introduction

  • Michael J. Geary

Abstract

On 1 January 1973, the European integration project took a major leap forward when Britain, Denmark, and Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the forerunner to today’s European Union (EU). The first enlargement, arguably its most divisive, represented a significant milestone in the Community’s short existence. Over the following decades, the EU would face many more requests for membership. Shortly after the first enlargement, the Mediterranean countries came knocking on the door, eager to benefit from the growing prosperity within the Common Market, and to seek shelter from the global economic storm that raged during the 1970s and 1980s. By 1986, Greece, Spain, and Portugal had brought the number of members to 12. The rapid accession of three underdeveloped countries into the Community proved it was not a club for rich industrial nations. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, East Germany entered the Community as part of a reunified Germany. The Nordic countries of Austria, Finland, and Sweden secured membership in 1995. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s meant that letters of application to join the EU arrived in Brussels in quick succession from many former Soviet-controlled states in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). In 2004, membership rose from 15 to 25 with the historic enlargement to include eight CEE countries, as well as Cyprus and Malta, while three years later Romania and Bulgaria joined. Croatia entered the EU in 2013. Many more countries are eager to join, including Iceland and Turkey. The enlargement process that began in the 1960s is far from complete.

Keywords

European Union Member State Enlargement Process National Archive European Economic Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Michael J. Geary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Geary
    • 1
  1. 1.Maastricht UniversityThe Netherlands

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