The history of the European Union (EU) is one of enlargement. In 1957, the European Economic Community (EEC, later transformed into the European Community, the EC) began with six relatively homogenous countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Luxembourg. The EC, and later the EU, subsequently grew to 15 member states, many of whom differed significantly from each other. This increase occurred in several stages, a few countries at a time. In 2004, the composition of the EU underwent a radical transformation, with the addition of ten countries: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. This enlargement is without a doubt the biggest challenge the European community has ever faced, not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality. The surface area of the EU has increased by one third and the population has grown by sixty million people. At the same time, the EU's GDP has only increased by 5 per cent, meaning that within the EU, the per capita GDP has declined by approximately 18 per cent. In addition, the number of languages spoken in the EU has almost doubled, and the need to find a fair balance between smaller and larger EU member countries has taken on a new sense of urgency.
In the context of this growth, the Central and Eastern European states (CEE states) are of specific interest.