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European Social Fund Plus

EU celebrates 2004 enlargement - 20 years of cohesion policy and support from the European Social Fund

20 year anniversary logo

This week, the European Union marks the 20th anniversary of the 2004 enlargement. On 1 May 2004, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia joined the EU. 

In her speech before Parliament last week, President von der Leyen described this important moment in the EU’s integration process as “the birth of a new era”

Over the last 20 years, the economies of the then-new Member States have boomed, their agricultural production has tripled, and their unemployment rates have been cut by half

Poverty and social exclusion levels in these Member States have fallen from 37% in 2005 to 17% in 2020. The number of children at risk of poverty also shrank from 41% to 17% in the same period.

Out of the 26 million new jobs, which have emerged across the EU in the last 20 years, 6 million have been created in the 10 new EU countries.

These achievements are in no small part thanks to the European Social Fund and Cohesion Policy, which has played a key role in supporting public investment, especially in less developed Member States.

Learn more about how the impact of the European Social Fund (Plus) in these countries by browsing the projects section of the website.

To learn more about the 2004 enlargement, as well as the Commission’s activities in celebration of the 20th anniversary, additional information can be found on the website and a new brochure.