Tuesday, May 12, 2009

5 Years of Central Europe in the EU

The European Commission published a study summarizing the economic effects of the historic 2004 EU enlargement. The main findings say that:
  • the accession process has contributed to significantly improve living standards in the new Member States, [...]
  • rapid trade integration has fostered a more efficient division of labor and strengthened competitiveness in the EU
  • investments from old Member States have been a key driver of economic transformation in the new Member States
  • new investment opportunities created by enlargement helped enterprises in the old Member States to strengthen their global competitiveness [...]
  • workers in the new Member States have profited from improved employment opportunities at home and abroad, [...]
  • in old Member States, concerns raised about massive labor migration prior to enlargement have not materialized
During the five years, Central Europe has proceeded to gain freedom in labor movement, typical for full EU membership. Restrictions to free movement of labor now remain only in Germany and Austria. The countries acceded to the Schengen area of free borders and won visa waiver for traveling to the United States. In addition, Slovakia joined the Eurozone in January this year.
Local economies experienced a swift growth in 2004-8. Regional average GDP per capita increased from 61.5% of the EU average in 2004 to 67.7% four years later (arithmetic average of V4 countries). Population in V4 stayed stagnant - at 63.9-64.0 million. The number of inhabitants grew noticebly only in the Czech Republic (from 10.2 to current 10.5 million). The EU27's total population is expected to reach 500 million sometime later this year.

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