The enlargement of the European Union = Economic thought and practice18The enlargement of the European Union = Economic thought and practice18
Faculty of Applied Economics
Internationale economics, International Management and Diplomacy
Ekonomska misao i praksa
18(2009):2, p. 397-410
University of Antwerp
Starting in 1957 with six countries, the EU of 27 has become today the largest economic integration bloc in the world. The new candidate member states are Croatia, FYROM, and Turkey, followed by the potential candidates Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia. Albania applied for membership on 28 April 2009. Geographical and cultural limitations eventually will determine the maximum absolute size of the European Union. The optimum size however could be lower than the absolute maximum number of member states. Academic research about optimum size is based on theories about club size, economic integration and convergence. Frequently political decisions in favor for enlargement overrule the economic rationale for the optimum size of the EU. Since 1993 the Copenhagen criteria determine the preconditions for membership. Besides the ability to cope with the obligations of membership the so called acquis communautaire and the economic criteria, the highest priority often goes to the political requirement of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and protection of minorities. The EU offers help to countries that are in the process of meeting the Copenhagen criteria. For the candidate member countries the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) is available, and the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) for the potential candidate countries. There is no evidence for the existence of a positive correlation between the size of the EU and the capacity to solve the problems of the actual economic crisis. Deficit spending by the EU is not possible due to the restrictions of the budget. The European Central Bank (ECB) has been applying an expansionary monetary policy by frequent interest rate cuts, but the impact only applies to the 16 euro countries. The EU Commission has been demonstrating a tolerant attitude against various types of state support which has been given by member states to sectors in trouble. An overall recovery action plan as in the US is not possible in the EU, as there is no mandate for such an action plan and because of insufficient funding.