On May 1, 2004, Slovenia, alongside nine other Central and Eastern European countries, became a full member of the European Union. This marked the fifth and largest, as well as the most well prepared, expansion of the European Union.
In 1993, the European Union precisely defined accession criteria for the first time. To become an EU member, a country must maintain a stable democracy, respect human rights, possess a competitive market economy, and be capable of adopting the Union's legal framework.
The European Union had to prepare for such a significant expansion as well. Its member states at that time harmonised the Nice Treaty, which was signed on February 26, 2001. The Nice Treaty came into effect on February 1, 2003, thus readying the European Union for the extensive enlargement on May 1, 2004. The changes involved:
Modification of the decision-making process
Substantial reduction in the number of cases where the Council of the EU had to decide by an absolute majority
Adjustment of the weighting of votes of individual member states in the Council of the EU with a qualified majority
New allocation of seats in the European Parliament
France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy relinquished a second commissioner
Strengthening the powers of the President of the European Commission
Membership brought us financial and developmental advantages, opening up employment opportunities for citizens in other member states. Travel within the EU was simplified, and the euro as the common currency streamlined business transactions and individual payments. EU membership not only brings numerous benefits but also entails responsibilities. Together with the other 26 member states, we must continue to strive to ensure that Europe remains a cohesive entity with diverse traditions and languages, yet bound by common values such as democracy, freedom, and social justice.
The European Union provides funding for projects and programmes in various areas, such as regional and urban development, employment and social inclusion, agriculture and rural development, maritime and fisheries policies, research and innovation, and humanitarian aid.