In Focus:  The New Europe

2004 Enlargement Of The European Union

On May 1st, 2004, ten new countries with 75 million people have joined the European Union (EU) in its biggest-ever enlargement.  Now representing 25 countries, its total population of more than 450 million exceeds that of NAFTA member countries Canada, Mexico, and the United States combined.

While politically diverse and not always fully aligned, the EU represents a strong and homogenous economic entity.  With its common currency, unrestricted internal trade, and harmonized laws and regulations, the union’s single-market philosophy reaches far beyond free trade agreements such as NAFTA.  Its combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $11 trillion is higher than that of the United States, making the EU the largest single market in the world.

The new member countries represent a rich pool of cultural diversity and economic opportunities.  Here's a brief overview.


This Central European country's economy and population almost equal the nine others combined.  Per-capita income, however, is still one of the lowest across the whole EU.  Its people have a well-deserved reputation for being resourceful and persistent, but entrepreneurial spirit often remains somewhat underdeveloped.

Czech Republic and Slovakia

Created in the peaceful break-up of former Czechoslovakia in 1993, these two Central European countries represent the second and fourth largest economies among the ten new members.  Their cultures and languages are quite similar.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania

The three Baltic states have all been part of the former Soviet Union until 1994.  Often erroneously viewed a homogenous trio, they are quite different in economic structure, culture, and language.

Hungary and Slovenia

Economically liberal even when still a Communist country, Hungary has enjoyed consistent growth since it fully opened its markets in 1990.  Slovenia, a part of Yugoslavia until 1991, always had strong ties to Western Europe which helped nurture economic development after its independence.  Both are located in Southeastern Europe.

Cyprus and Malta

These two small Mediterranean island states both do well economically.  Cyprus still struggles politically, being split into a Greek and a Turkish part.

What’s Next?

The integration into the EU has opened up many opportunities for the new member states.  Following the model of Ireland, Portugal, and others before them, each is advertising itself as an attractive target for foreign investments.  Given generally good education levels and favorable business conditions, including labor cost that is usually less than half that of the largest EU economies, most of them should see many years of growing prosperity, especially in light of the ever-accelerating trend towards global outsourcing.

Getting ready to join the union was a major undertaking for each of the new member countries.  In addition to meeting political and economic criteria, each first had to adopt the full body of EU law as part of their national law systems.  Now that their accession has been completed, other countries are already going through the same process.

Scheduled to join in 2007 are Bulgaria and Romania.  Other membership candidates include Croatia and Turkey.  In parallel, the EU is working to further advance the process of becoming a homogenous political and economic entity through the adoption of a new constitution while strengthening its governing bodies and political representation.

(The above is an excerpt from an in-depth article available on our web page)
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Book Of The Month
Kiss, Bow, Or Shake Hands


Comprehensive guide on protocols, behaviors, and business practices in 60 countries. Includes overviews and culture introductions.

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Web Site Of The Month
Gateway To The
European Union


Just about everything there is to know about the EU, including comprehensive information on each of the EU commission's activity areas.  Numerous links are also provided for each of the 25 member states.

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I’ve come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version

(Don DeLillo)


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Global Business Practices:
Ten Tips For Doing Business in Poland

  • Most Poles dislike uncertainties. Don't expect them to get going before they had time to assess the situation.
  • Polish thinking is analytical, abstractive, conceptual. However, relationships may matter more than logic when it comes to decision making.
  • Be prepared to read between the lines. Communication may not be very straightforward.
  • When listening, people will rarely interrupt. Expressions of skepticism don't necessarily indicate rejection.
  • Family ties and friendships play a huge role even in business. Spend effort to build strong relationships.
  • Be prepared for people getting physically closer to you than what you might be comfortable with.
  • In most situations, Poles prefer being quieter than Americans might be. Avoid being "loud".
  • Business entertainment may mean spending long nights. Leaving early is frowned upon.
  • Respect Poland's intense national pride. It's a country bigger than Italy or the UK.
  • Polish-Russian relationships are still tense. This topic is best avoided in conversation.

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