1 May 2004 marked an historic moment as Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU as new member states sealing a period of enormous change. Just over a decade ago, six of the eight Central European states did not even exist. One of them was at war. These countries have voted to anchor their new and hard-won independence and nationhood in the EU. They rightly see the EU as the best guarantor of their new-found sovereignty.
As the European Union enters a new era, the UK Government wholeheartedly welcomes the ten countries of Central and Southern Europe as new members of the European Union. It is the clearest sign that the division, which for too long has marked our continent, is finally erased. That can only be a cause of celebration as we shape a new future of further prosperity, stability and security for all member states in Europe. Enlargement is one of the UK and EU’s most successful policies. It delivers peace, prosperity and stability across the continent, entrenching the EU values to an ever-widening Union.

History of Enlargement

1 May 2004 marked an historic achievement when ten countries successfully joined the existing fifteen Member States of the European Union. Enlargement of the EU however is not a new concept. From an original EC membership of 6 in 1958, the EU has gradually expanded and as of 1 May 2004 had 25 member states. There have been five waves of enlargement since 1958:
  • 1973 – to include Denmark, Ireland, and the UK.
  • 1981 – to include Greece.
  • 1986 – to include Spain and Portugal.
  • 1995 – to include Austria, Finland and Sweden.
  • 2004 – to include the 8 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, plus Cyprus and Malta.

Which countries became members on 1 May 2004?

  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Estonia
  • Hungary
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

But enlargement doesn’t stop there – the shape of Europe is still changing with further waves of enlargement planned for the future. Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia are all candidates for EU membership and in various stages of the accession process.