Summary: While seizing the historic opportunity to reunify Europe by its enlargement to central and Eastern European countries, the EU neglected the strategic preparations for enlargement. It failed to invest enough into analysing the consequences of accession to 10 members for its internal functioning. The EU-based law was imposed on the future members without taking into consideration the cultural, economic, social and political differences. At no point in time did the EU wonder whether its laws had to be altered and improved in the view of upcoming enlargement, in particular the common policies, such as agriculture, cohesion, employment and social policies. It is now high time to take advantage of enlargement and reform these policies without waiting for 2006 or another opportunity. Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons to remain optimistic. First of all, there is the enthusiasm of the future member states to participate in the EU adventure, despite the unequal accession conditions. The recent referenda have confirmed this enthusiasm. The newcomers will bring along a rich cultural heritage and contribute to the relaunching of integration dynamism. Although they are suffering major delays, these countries have all successfully made a transition towards the market economy. Some of them have known periods of rapid growth, although it was based on foreign investment, which is always volatile in nature. They have all redirected their trade towards the EU. We can therefore expect that the economic effects of accession will be even greater than foreseen.
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