Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Warsaw (Screenshot: HRT) Prime Minister Andrej Plenković in Warsaw (Screenshot: HRT)

In 2004 the EU increased its membership from 15 to 25, with Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland Slovenia and Slovakia all joining the bloc on May 1st. This was the largest single expansion of the European Union, not only in terms number of states, but also in terms of territory and population. It was not however, the largest in terms of gross domestic product.

Speaking at the summit the leaders of all ten member states agreed that membership was a turning point in the development of their respective countries. Also present were delegations from Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania, which join the EU later. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković noted that due to more difficult historic circumstances Croatia was somewhat late in joining the EU, but that it is making solid progress.

"Croatia, on the verge of completing its sixth full year of membership, must follow the path of those countries, which took advantage of this lever and transformative power, both in terms of the judiciary, the economy and development, as well as the system of values. I can definitely say that in these first six years we have achieved progress and that progress is increasing. My government has done the utmost to make the best possible use of the redistributional strength of the EU budget, to reduce inequalities, to uniformly develop all Croatian regions, and that our citizen's quality of be even better."

He added that all of the countries represented at the summit were better off for joining the EU. "Take a look at Warsaw now, take a look at Prague or Budapest, or how the Baltic countries are developing, the progress in Bulgaria, Romania, Malta Cyprus, and Croatia as well. The positive aspect and added value of EU membership is clear for all to see. Everyone here has indicated what an enormous success this has been and what a big developmental point this is in the lives of these nations and these countries. This is very important for Croatia and it is important that the Croatian people are aware of this."

Source: HRT