Per decade, the series “Together we have built Europe” explains the challenges, constraints and progress as well as the projects that have marked the history of the European Union. Hafsa, who works for the European Commission Department in charge of European regional and urban policy, and her colleague Morten travel back in time to the 2000s.
This decade was characterised by the world becoming more interconnected as a result of digital technologies, and by events such as the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 against the United States and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Storms, tornados, floods and heat waves were the first signs of climate change. In response to these events, the European Union made every effort to support the hardest hit regions. The European Union Solidarity Fund became a new symbol of cooperation between the institutions and local authorities.
In 2004, 10 new member states acceded to the European Union: Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia. Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007. In only a few years, the population of the European Union increased by 20%! Once again, these accessions widened the disparities, all the more so because many new member states had been weakened by decades of communist rule.
2007 was also the year when the Treaty of Lisbon was signed to make the European Union more democratic and efficient. It laid a common constitutional basis, reinforced the involvement of national parliaments in the Commission’s decisions and attached greater importance to citizens’ initiatives. This was also the moment when the fight against climate change became a priority.
But just as everything seemed to be coming together, the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States triggered a global financial crisis. Once again, the member states of the European Union had to close ranks to overcome the crisis.
The stage was set for further consolidation of the 27 EU members and even the accession of a 28th member, but that’s another story.