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The Growth of the United States of Europe - EU Expansion

Updated on October 10, 2011

A Short Video Guide To The EU

The Growth of EU Membership

A picture showing the growth of the EU over time.
A picture showing the growth of the EU over time. | Source

A Brief Background

Prior to reading through this article I advise you watch the short video on the history of the European Union to the right. EU history is something I shall not be covering directly in the article despite some background knowledge being essential, so please familiarize yourself with it as much as you can before reading.

The EU has undergone seven phases of expansion which I will clarify briefly here:

  1. 1952 -The ECSC Foundation - (European Coal and Steel Community) This brought Germany, France, Italy and Benelux countries together in a form of economic agreement.
  2. 1973 - First Major Expansion - Britain, Denmark and Ireland join the European Community.
  3. 1981 - Greek Expansion - Greece becomes the 10th EC member.
  4. 1986 - Iberian Expansion - Portugal and Spain join, adding the territory of Iberia to the EC.
  5. 1995 - Second Major Expansion - Austria, Sweden and Finland join the European Union.
  6. 2004 - Third Major Expansion - Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are brought into the European Union; the largest single expansion of the EU to date.
  7. 2007 - Beginning of Balkan Expansion - Bulgaria and Romania join the EU marking the final enlargement of the economic union to date.

Candidate Countries

There are five countries with candidacy for ascendency to the European Union in the coming months and years. These are: Croatia, Montenegro, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland and Turkey. Each of these nations are overcoming or have had to overcome obstacles to their ascendency.

Croatia: Candidate for the EU since 2004. Had to sign up to a Stabilisation and Association process to ensure its economy was strong enough for EU membership and met all requirements. The predicted date for Croatia's accession is 1st July 2013.

Montenegro: A serious possibility for EU expansion since 2006 and a formal candidate from 2010. Agreed to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement in 2007 and began operating under it in 2008. A report by the EU recommending what qualities a nation should exhibit if it wishes to join the EU can be found here: (

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: Another serious possibility for EU expansion since 2000. In 2005 FYR Macedonia was declared a candidate country. Updates on the status may been seen on 12th October 2011 when the latest reports are released.

Turkey: Turkey is by far the largest and most important addition to the EU candidacy list. This nation of 75 million people is predicted to be one of the world's fastest growing economies in the next two decades. Turkey received its candidacy in 1999 and since then has been attempting to reform its judicial, legislative and electoral systems to meet EU liberal democracy requirements. A possible date of accession is difficult to determine for Turkey, however, I cannot envisage it occurring before 2016 unless there is radical reform in Turkey.

Iceland: Iceland's accession to the EU is looking strong. Despite the economic troubles in Iceland and the disaster for UK consumer's with Icesave bank the nation remains a strong candidate thanks to its adherence to democratic ideals and principles. Its accession could not be far off in my view.

Potential Candidates

There are also four potential candidates which the EU has expressed interest in adding to their union. These are: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244 - See here for my views on the UN Security Council). These nations are very far off EU membership when compared to the Candidate countries and most of these nations could easily expect to wait up to ten years before ascendency could be granted.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: A possible candidate since 2003. In 2008 it took a major step by signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

Serbia: A plausible candidate from around 2008-2009. The integration of Serbia has been difficult and I believe it will be a couple more years before we see Serbia as an EU candidate.

Albania: A plausible candidate from 2008. Albania still needs to make reforms before it can hope to join the EU, however it is on its way there. Akin to Serbia I can see it being several more years before Albania is officially called a candidate country.

Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244): Kosovo is a special case which is best covered in an article of its own. However, in short EU intervention in Kosovo has been extremely high due to the turbulence of the region and as long as intervention remains high the EU's interest in Kosovo EU Candidacy will remain high too.


The EU has expanded vastly in the past fifty years and shows no signs of slowing down. Even with the 2011 Euro currency crisis the union seems to remain strong. I believe we will see the Balkans and Turkey join the EU by 2020, Ukraine is also a possible future candidate, but that will likely wait until the EU has completed negotiations with the Balkans. Belarus has always remained more favourable to Russia than Europe, so it is very possible Ukraine marks the physical Eastern limit of the EU in the same way that Portugal marks the Western limit.


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    • Marsden4 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from UK

      Hi Mike Curry,

      Sorry it took me so long to approve your comment. I hadn't logged into Hubpages for a while.

      The article was supposed to be informative in nature, and I appreciate you clarifying the issue. I guess I was looking for a snappy title when I wrote this a couple of years back. It's probably rather out of date now, unfortunately and could do with some updating.

    • Mike Curry profile image

      Michael Curry 

      5 years ago from Tampa, FL

      To speak of a "United States of Europe" is to adopt a particular ideal on what 'Europe' and the European Union should look like. I will grant that the Union has come a long way from de Gaulle's "Europe des Patries," and has been shifting since the Single European Act closer to Monnet's vision of the project. But the European Union is a long way from developing a federalist system that would make it a "United States of Europe," and the Eurozone crisis has caused a serious questioning of the wisdom of that goal. I realize that this article is meant to be informative, but I felt it necessary to clarify this issue.

    • Marsden4 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      I know what you mean Lafamillia. The criteria for EU membership is quite specific though and takes years to achieve, I would love to see Serbia in the EU someday.

    • lafamillia profile image


      8 years ago from Soutcentral Europe

      Serbia HAS TO BE PART OF EUROPE IF ROMANIA AND BULGARIA IS... I mean it is ridiculous...


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