In June 1993, 4 years after the fall of the Berlin wall, leading EU politicians at the European Council declared that 'the associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe that so desire shall become members of the Union'. Ten former communist countries applied for membership.
Soon after, Association Agreements were signed with these countries - as well as Cyprus and Malta - leading to adaption of their existing legislation and institutions to the EU’s conditions.
For the first ten countries this process led to official membership to the EU in May 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania followed in January 2007. On 1st of July 2013 Croatia joined the EU. This concluded a process enlarging the EU from 15 to 28 Member States and putting an end to the East-West divide which existed since World War II.
This is not the end of the enlargement. The EU has discussed Turkey joining since the sixties but negotiations are slow and political resistance in Member States remains strong. However, in the last few years the FYRo Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Serbia have joined Turkey as official candidates and have begun the accession process. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo* are potential candidates.
The EU agreed on a European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004 with the objective of avoiding new dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its non-members and aims to strengthen the prosperity, stability and security of all states. The policy applies to EU's immediate neighbours by land or sea.