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20th anniversary of the largest enlargement in the history of the European Union

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It was the largest enlargement of the European Union in history. 20 years ago, 10 countries joined the Community, including Poland. Today, 450 million Europeans enjoy freedom of movement. The EU increases opportunities to study and work abroad. Nearly 80 percent of citizens of countries that joined the Community two decades ago claim that their countries have benefited from it.

This is what almost every morning looks like. Janos, 47, who lives in northwestern Hungary, gets up at dawn, gets into his car and goes to work in Vienna. – I don't have paid leave, I can't count on 13 hours, but I still earn twice as much in Austria as in Hungary – admits Janos Gyorgy Szeredi, a Hungarian citizen who commutes to work in Austria. Janos is the chef. He covers about two hundred kilometers every day. The man can move freely thanks to Hungary's membership in the European Union.

– Before we joined the EU, I needed a visa, I had to go to the Austrian embassy in Budapest and pass a language exam – says Szeredi. Everything started to change 20 years ago. On May 1, 2004, the European Union gained ten new members. Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the Community. 79 percent of citizens of these countries say that their countries have benefited from joining the EU. – The countries that joined the EU in 2004 have experienced changes. Your economies have grown, agricultural production has tripled. Unemployment has halved, says Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission.

READ ALSO: Kwaśniewski: This is a moment of reflection on how to adapt the EU to new realities. You need to go to Europe with a vision

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The progress in Polish health care that has been made over the last 20 years is “unprecedented”Marek Nowicki/Fakty TVN

Over the last two decades, 26 million new jobs have been created in the Community. The enlargement of the European Union has increased not only employment opportunities, but also opportunities to study abroad. Today, it is difficult for young people to imagine that things used to be different. – The most important aspect, at least for me, is the free movement of goods, services and people. Thanks to EU membership, it is easy to move abroad, study and discover new cultures without any restrictions, says David Juhos, a 20-year-old Hungarian citizen who studies in Vienna.

Increased life satisfaction

Since 2004, over two million and 700 thousand young people from the countries that joined the Community have benefited from the Erasmus+ program. The percentage of people aged 25 to 34 with higher education increased by 20 percentage points. 20-year-old Kevin from Estonia praises the Community for investing in the development of new technologies. Thanks to EU funding, he founded a startup himself. – Giving development opportunities to smaller countries and smaller companies has an impact on the entire European Union, says Kevin Kaldau, a 20-year-old from Estonia. Kevin belongs to the generation born after the enlargement of the European Union. 20 years after the enlargement of the Community, young people appreciate the opportunities the European Union gives them. – I see political benefits from this – being in the EU, we can jointly set ambitious climate goals and implement them – comments Julia Klimkiewicz, a 19-year-old councilor from Warsaw's Śródmieście district.

SEE ALSO: How much money did Poland receive from the EU? The minister gave a “clean balance”

– I have quite young parents, so our views are similar. The advantages of the EU include easier travel, the possibility of education abroad, care for the environment and more job offers, says Rozalie Vorlova, a 20-year-old student from the Czech Republic. – We have an easy life. We have access to everything. It is easier for us to develop, it is easier for us to act, among others, thanks to the European Union – admits Damian Krajza, a 19-year-old farmer and councilor. According to Eurobarometer, over the last two decades, life satisfaction in the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004 has increased from 68 to 89 percent.

Author:Justyna Kazimierczak

Facts about the World TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: (C) European Union 2023 / Rockstar Studios / Laszlo Mudra

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