Eastern Enlargement of the European Union

  • James Sloam
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


The historic events that took place in 1989 triggered the end of the division of the European continent into two ideologically opposed political, economic and military systems. The reunification of Germany was accompanied by the emancipation of central and eastern Europe from an era of Soviet domination. This not only had huge implications for Germany and German interests, but also for the European Community as a whole, which quickly sought to stabilise the fledgling democracies and harness their potential through Trade and Friendship Agreements (removing import quotas on several products) and, in following years, ‘Trade and Co-operation Agreements with Bulgaria, the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovenia’.1 The new geopolitical reality meant that strong German interests lay in ensuring the political and economic stability of central and eastern Europe as well as in taking advantage of trading opportunities. Germany’s geographical location in the Mittellage of a soon-to-be-enlarged EU, thus, reinforced the view that ‘we have lots of neighbours with whom we must get on … [and] cannot afford isolation’.2 In this context, Chancellor Kohl saw eastern enlargement as a natural extension of German unification, a second ‘decisive step towards overcoming the division of our continent’.3 The proposed eastern enlargement of the EU was, however, without precedent, since the transition from a 6-member EC to a 15-member EU took place over a time span of 22 years, and of those new members only four countries – Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain – were significantly poorer when they joined.4 In contrast to these earlier developments, the applicant states from central and eastern Europe were high in number, extremely poor in comparison to the EU average and were brand new democratic systems.


Institutional Reform European Policy German Unification Accession Negotiation German Social 
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Copyright information

© James Sloam 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Sloam
    • 1
  1. 1.German DepartmentKing’s CollegeLondonUK

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