Poorer countries experienced faster growth after joining the EU, the expert said

Poorer countries experienced faster growth after joining the EU, the expert said
Poorer countries experienced faster growth after joining the EU, the expert said

Commercial presentation Update: 04/01/2024 09:09
Issued by: 04/01/2024, 09:09

Brussels – Poorer states experienced faster growth after joining the European Union, and the convergence of economic levels did not only take place between new and old member countries, but also between individual countries of Central and Eastern Europe. It may seem to the Czechs that, for example, the Poles have significantly improved with their membership in the EU. Vít Havelka from the Czech Institute Europeum, which has branches in Prague and Brussels, stated this in an interview with ČTK. Havelka emphasized that the quality of life in the Czech Republic is very high, essentially comparable to southern Europe, and that the Czech Republic has experienced great economic prosperity in the last 20 years. However, the European Union also became economically much stronger and more competitive with the expansion of ten countries in 2004, said Teona Lavrelashviliová from the European Policy Center (EPC) in Brussels.

“All the countries that joined the European Union in 2004 experienced relatively solid economic growth and real convergence with the original EU15. However, it is true that the pace of enrichment was different across the region,” said Havelka. “From a political point of view, in the last twenty years we have witnessed a gradual retreat from liberal democracy towards quasi-autocratic political systems,” added an analyst from the Europeum Institute. He cited Hungary as an example, where, according to him, it is no longer possible to speak of a fully democratic system, but of semi-authoritarianism with almost absolute control of the ruling party over the media, business and politics. According to Havelka, similar tendencies as in Hungary can also be traced in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. However, according to him, the political system of these three countries has so far proven to be relatively robust. “We’ll see in which direction we move,” he added.

According to Lavrelashviliova, initially more states with a worse economic situation and lower GDP benefited from joining the European Union. As an example, she cited Romania, which joined the EU together with Bulgaria in 2007. “It also depends on how the country’s political leadership uses its membership in the European Union and how it sells it to the domestic audience,” said the expert.

“The great enlargement in 2004 was also beneficial for the original 15 EU members. Firstly, they could benefit from the opening of new markets and the integration of Central and Eastern Europe into the EU economy, and secondly, the membership of new countries from Central and Eastern Europe stabilized the entire region politically and socially.” Havelka believes. According to him, if enlargement did not take place, one could expect that Central Europe would function as a buffer zone between Western Europe and Russia.

Among the problems associated with enlargement, however, is the difficult situation when it comes to reaching consensus among member states, believes Havelka. It is much easier to find agreement between 15 than between 27 countries. Another problem, according to him, is the retreat from democratic norms and the rule of law after the accession of states to the EU. The accession process acted as a significant motivation for the candidate countries to reform. But as soon as the countries joined the euro bloc, the pressure stopped, added an expert from the Europeum Institute.

According to Havelka, membership in the European Union helped the Czech Republic to mentally become a “normal European country” that is fully integrated into Western structures. The same applies to the economy, which has fully integrated into the European and global production chain. The reputation of the Czech Republic has also changed significantly, according to a Czech expert. “I think that the former EU15 is also generally more aware of the opinions of Central Europe, we are moving from pupils to the full role of partners. But we also need to get used to this position and take responsibility for the EU and its functioning. I still feel that we have there is some catching up to do in this area,” noted Havelka.

Even from the point of view of Brussels, the reputation of the Czech Republic is developing. “The Czech Republic has been the target of criticism for some time, mainly because of its stance on EU migration policy reform, but the overall reputation of the country is not bad,” said Lavrelašviliová in an interview with ČTK. The topic of managing migration has long divided the EU member states. In the past, for example, a proposal for mandatory quotas for the redistribution of refugees failed. The Czech Republic, together with Poland and Hungary, strongly opposed this proposal.

But in the second half of 2022, according to Lavrelašviliová, the Czech Republic had a very successful presidency of the Council of the EU. “The Czech Republic is trying to be constructive and also wants to be an integral part of the EU. It’s just a shame that you don’t have the euro. I don’t understand why,” the expert added. What should be the future role of Prague? According to her, the Czech Republic could help in the further expansion of the European Union due to its good relations with the countries of the Western Balkans. “The Czech Republic could play a bigger role there,” concluded Lavrelasviliová.

EU CR economy diplomacy 2004 ARTICLE

The article is in Czech

Tags: Poorer countries experienced faster growth joining expert


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