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Ηistorical Background

The completion of all procedures for the accession of the ten new members, the signing of the Act of Accession and the furthering of the process for the accession of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are among the main priorities of the Greek Presidency.

Greece – whose accession to the then EEC in 1981 formed the easternmost border of the United Europe – is now called on, in its fourth presidency, to ratify the greatest expansion of the EU ever.

Fifty-seven years after the end of World War II and thirteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe is approaching its natural boundaries, while giving new content to the very idea of the Union, far from exclusions or limits. 

The accession of ten new countries – each with its own historical, religious and cultural background – gives a practical answer to ideological and strategic problems that have plagued Europe for the past two centuries. With the accession of the new countries and their 75 million citizens, divisions of the past are healed, the greatest pole of interstate economic and political cooperation in the world is created, while the great challenge of deepening the political unification of the European continent is placed in a new context.  


1 1964 Turkey signs the Association Agreement with the Community, setting out the framework for political dialogue and trade relations between the two sides.

2 1970 Malta signs the Association Agreement with the Community.

3 1972 Cyprus signs the Association Agreement with the Community.

4 1981 Greece joins the Community.

5 1986 Spain and Portugal become members of the Community.

6 1987 Turkey submits an application for accession to the Community.

7 1988 Hungary becomes the first central European country to sign a trade and cooperation agreement with the Community. After a short time, other countries follow suit. 

8 1989 The Berlin Wall falls.

9 1989 The EEC draws up the PHARE programme in order to support reforms in the countries of Eastern European through a series of economic actions. The PHARE programme constitutes the main platform for the accession preparations of the former socialist countries.

10 1990 Cyprus and Malta apply for Community membership.

11 1991 Hungary and Poland sign the Europe Agreements, which in many respects are equivalent to Association Agreements.

12 1993 The Community sets the Copenhagen criteria as the basic requirements for the accession of new countries. 

13 1993 The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria sign Europe Treaties with the Community.

14 1994 At the Essen European Council, the Member States determine the Pre-Accession Strategy in preparation for the eastward expansion of the Community.

15 1994 Poland and Hungary apply for Community membership.

16 1995 Austria, Finland and Sweden join the Community. 

17 1995 Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia sign Europe Agreements.

18 1995 Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania submit applications for Community accession.

19 1996 The Czech Republic submits an application for Community accession.

20 1996 Slovenia signs the Europe Agreement and submits an accession application.

21 1996 The final stage of the Customs Union between Turkey and the Community is put into effect. 

22 1997 The European Commission presents Agenda 2000, which contains the planning for the organisation of the enlargement and sets out the Commission’s views on the accession progress of the ten countries of  Central and Eastern Europe.
23 1997 The Luxembourg European Council agrees on a common accession process for the ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as Cyprus, thus paving the way for enlargement. The Council also decides that accession negotiations should begin firstly with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, Poland and Hungary.  

24 1998 The EU establishes partnerships with the ten countries of Central and Eastern Europe in order to facilitate their accession. In addition, the EU programmes a number of special studies to identify the problems the new countries will have to tackle in the short and long term.

25 1998 Accession negotiations begin with Cyprus, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Estonia.

26 1998 The European Commission draws up the first Annual Progress Report, recording in detail each country’s level of preparation for accession. 

27 1998 Malta reactivates the accession application it had submitted in 1990.

28 1999 The Helsinki European Council reaffirms the non-restrictive nature of the accession process and decides the commencement of accession negotiations with a further six countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania. The Council also confirms Turkey’s status as a candidate country. 

29 1999 The Berlin European Council ratifies Agenda 2000, which sets out the terms for the financing of the enlargement up to 2006. 

30 2000 Accession negotiations commence with Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

31 2000 The European Commission defines the pre-accession strategy to be applicable for Turkey.

32 2000 The European Commission presents the plan for accession negotiations up to mid-2002, which became known as the ‘roadmap’.

33 2000 The Nice European Council ratifies the ‘roadmap’, the Commission reports and the new strategy on the accession of the new members. It also approves the Nice Treaty which, against the background of the enlargement, revises EU decision-making processes as well as the allocation of votes and seats in the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission.
34 2001 The Gothenburg European Council clarifies the timetable of negotiations for the enlargement, noting that if the pace of consultations is maintained, the new countries will be ready for accession at the end of 2002. It also notes that during the Swedish, Belgian and Spanish presidencies, negotiations on all outstanding chapters must be concluded with the candidate countries.

35 2001 The Community establishes partnership for the accession of Turkey.

36 2001 The Laeken European Council for the first time stipulates which countries will be in a position to conclude their accession negotiations by the end of 2002. Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are included; Bulgaria and Romania are not.

37 2002 The Euro replaces the national currencies of the eleven countries participating in the Economic and Monetary Union.

38 2002 The Barcelona and Seville European Councils reaffirm the will of the 15 to proceed with the enlargement on the basis of the timetables already set. In Seville, it is noted that the ten candidate countries are expected to have concluded their accession negotiations by the end of 2002. 

39 2002 The Brussels European Council ratifies the Commission’s recommendations and Report on the ten countries, according to which Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia already meet the political criteria and will be in a position to meet the economic criteria in order to fulfil their membership obligations as of the beginning of 2004. The European Council proposes the conclusion of negotiations at the end of 2002. 

40 2002 The Copenhagen European Council takes the decision for the accession of the ten new members. The Europe of 25 nations is a reality.

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