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European Union to Add 10 Members

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The European Union, which already has 15 members, has agreed to welcome 10 more nations into its fold by 2004. The new nations are Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The existing members are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Most of the new nations are from Eastern Europe, formerly controlled by the Soviet Union. And when Bulgaria and Romania join the EU in 2007, all traces of the political division known as the Iron Curtain will have been erased. This is highly significant because until the fall of the Soviet Union, in 1989, tensions in Europe were very high amid the threat of combat, nuclear or otherwise. Not many battles took place, but spying and political unrest were commonplace. This whole period, from the end of World War II (1945) to 1989 was known as the Cold War.

One potential hazard for the newly installed Cyprus is that only half of the Mediterranean island is being accepted. The island is now two halves--one ruled by Greeks and one ruled by Turks. They have been fighting for many years. Only the Greek half will be admitted into the European Union.

This shunning of the Turkish half of Cyprus is part of a bigger issue. Turkey has repeatedly tried to join the European Union, but EU leaders have refused, citing what they say is Turkey's terrible human rights record and a tradition of discrimination and reliance on military force to deal with protests. (As recently as five years ago, the army forced out an elected government.) The EU has agreed to restart talks on having Turkey join, but those talks won't start until 2005. Until then, EU leaders hope, Turkey will make progress on giving its people more freedoms.

The European Union is an economic organization designed to promote trade within Europe. The primary benefit of the organizaiton is to make it easier for European countries to trade with each other, and the primary way of doing that is by using a common currency, the euro. With the new members, the EU will surpass the North American Free Trade Agreement (uniting Canada, Mexico, and the United States in an economic union) as the world's largest market, with 445 million people compared to NAFTA's 416 million.

The expansion was the first since Austria, Finland and Sweden joined in 1995. The founding 12 nations began the EU in 1993.

 Graphics courtesy of ArtToday

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