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On 1 January 1993 the European Union (EU) formed the world’s largest single unified market consisting of some 350 million consumers. Since this time additional Western European countries have become members of the EU, with the prospects of expanded membership to include other wealthy Western European nations. However, this paper attempts to analyse the prospects of expanded EU membership from the ranks of the former Eastern bloc states, which have, since the late 1980s and early 1990s, been attempting to transform their economies from the communist era of central planning to that of market economies.

The likelihood of such membership from the former Comecon group of nations in the foreseeable future, is most realistically limited to those from Central Europe—Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. All of these have already applied for such membership. In the process of striving for EU membership, which is regarded by each nation as being both economically and politically desirable, instead of having adopted a group, or cooperative, approach, each have adopted an individualistic approach involving a reorientation of their trade away from each other to the EU and active competition for hard currency exports and for foreign direct investment.

The paper is primarily concerned with identifying the recent macroeconomic performance of three of these Central European economies—Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland identifying some of the major reform measures which have been implemented as well as some of the major difficulties which each of them is currently experiencing. The major issues and stumbling blocks which exist to their membership of the EU are also discussed.