The growing membership of the Community/Union demonstrates the extraordinary attractiveness of the multinational integration process, the Community method, compared to its rival, the intergovernmental cooperation method. The countries, which had originally advocated the latter method, have come, one after the other, to solicit their participation in the integration process. The countries of Western Europe, which still shy away from this process, are nevertheless following many of the policies decided by the countries participating in the process, thanks to the European Economic Area agreement (EEA). The countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which, after their liberation from the iron curtain, had the option of joining the outer circle of the free trade EFTA/EEA or the inner circle of the EC/EU, have unhesitatingly opted for the latter. The facts speak for themselves. There could be no better demonstration of the validity of the multinational integration (Community) method than the attraction that it exerts on outsider neighbouring countries.
What is even more extraordinary is that the membership has kept growing together with the tasks assumed by the team, which means that the newcomers accede to an ever closer union and undertake to adopt all the "acquis communautaire", i.e. all the ever-growing legislation enacted by the institutions set up by the elder members. Earlier accessions happened at the time that the Community had just realised its customs union and was struggling to complete its common market in order to make it a single market. The newcomers could well believe that the integration process would stop at this stage and, in fact, some still wish that it had and feel betrayed that it marches on and on. But, later day accessions happened at times that the Community/Union had declared, in revised Treaties, its intention to proceed to the stages of economic and monetary union and even to political union. Hence, when they signed and ratified these Treaties, they were fully aware that European integration is a process without a specified end, but with the declared objective of bringing the European peoples ever closer together [Preamble of the Treaty on the EU and Preamble of the Treaty establishing the EC]. This means that recent newcomers and applicants are attracted by the economic and political advantages of integration, which, for them, outweigh the disadvantage of ceding parts of their national sovereignties to supranational institutions.
The 2004 and 2007 enlargements were successes of the European Union. They have helped to overcome the division of Europe and contributed to peace and stability throughout the continent. They have inspired reforms and have consolidated common principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law as well as the market economy. The wider internal market and economic cooperation have increased prosperity and competitiveness, enabling the enlarged Union to respond better to the challenges of globalisation. Enlargements have also enhanced the EU's weight in the world and made it a stronger international partner. The Brussels European Council (14-15 December 2006) reaffirmed that the future of the western Balkans lies in the European Union. It reiterated that each country's progress towards the European Union depends on its individual efforts to comply with the Copenhagen criteria and the conditionality of the stabilisation and association process [see section 25.2].
The attraction continues and it seems likely that all the countries in the periphery of the Union will someday ask for accession to it. In fact, the problem is not so much the continuous enlargement of the Union as that its actual structures and institutions cannot support its expansion without their reinforcement. The signing of the Lisbon Treaty, on 13 December 2007, was an initial endeavour to strengthen the structures and institutions of the Union. But, it seems likely that the reforms brought about by this Treaty will not be enough to allow the Union to satisfy the aspirations of its citizens both on the internal and particularly on the external front [see section 1.5.2].
Common policies, as all other public policies, are there to meet the societal needs which arise in a defined community of nations at a given time. Therefore, not only the objectives which the member states set for each common policy, but the means which they give to the common institutions to attain them and the measures which the latter adopt to implement them change in accordance with the economic, political and social needs which the participant states experience at a certain time. In the case of the EC/EU, the common policies are in permanent evolution, demonstrated, for all of them, by the constant amendment of the Community laws (regulations, directives, etc.) that form them, and, for some of them (e.g., agricultural, regional, social and research policies), by the amendment of the Treaty provisions that concern them. Moreover, a common policy tends to spill over onto other common policies, to produce needs, to cause reactions and to nourish their development.