During the Danish EU presidency in 2002, the EU Member States agreed to expand the EU by ten new Member States from mainly Central and Eastern Europe. This was the single biggest enlargement in the history of the EU. The enlargement had its roots in the collapse of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which made it possible to unite the European countries in the EU.
In 2007, two more countries entered the EU as Romania and Bulgaria acquired membership. Today, there are thus 27 EU Member States, and number 28 is on its way, as Croatia will join in 2013. In addition, Turkey, Iceland, Montenegro and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have obtained candidate status.
Before a candidate country can join the EU, it must implement existing EU legislation and meet standards for democracy, justice and human rights. In addition, the candidate country must also have a well-functioning market economy. The requirements are high and enlargement negotiations may therefore extend over several years.
The enlargement eastward is not the first enlargement in EU history, but it is the largest. Previously, the EU expanded in several stages:
1973: Denmark, Ireland and the UK
1986: Portugal and Spain
1995: Finland, Sweden and Austria
2004: Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia
2007: Bulgaria and Romania