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European Union Accession and The World Bank

European Union Accession and The World Bank
European Union Accession and The World Bank
  • Supporting far reaching economic reforms
  • Going forward - supporting integration within the EU
  • Working in Partnership
  • Supporting Accession
  • Assessing Economic Performance
  • Lending Activities by Country 1989 - 2003
  • Lending Activities by Sector 1989 - 2003

    Supporting far-reaching economic reforms

    The World Bank has promoted far-reaching economic and social reforms in the eight Central European and Baltic countries set to join the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004.

    All eight countries (the EU8: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovak Republic and Slovenia)* are members of the World Bank Group. As such, they remain eligible for continued World Bank advisory, technical and financial assistance. Slovenia, for its part, has formally \"graduated\" from borrower status.

    \"Admission to the EU is a tremendous achievement for a group of countries which less than 15 years ago began the task of fundamentally transforming their economies and societies,\" said Shigeo Katsu, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. \"This meant liberalizing markets and prices, modernizing judicial systems, privatizing industries and banks, and ensuring new approaches to social service provision.\"

    With their sights set on EU membership, the EU8 countries sought World Bank support in pursuing the reforms necessary to put in place the overarching legal framework all members states must adopt. This framework, which is known as the acquis communautaire, consists of the host of rules, standards and policies governing the EU. The Copenhagen Criteria agreed by the European Council in 1993 also require prospective members to be stable democracies, have functioning market economies, and be able to compete within the EU\'s single market.

    The World Bank also helped the EU8 in modernizing social services and meeting other development goals. Although not governed by the acquis, the World Bank\'s support in these areas was closely coordinated with the EU Commission.

    Since the transition began in the early 1990s World Bank lending to the EU8 totaled US$12.1 billion for 153 operations through FY04 (ending June 30). Of these, 32 operations worth $1.6 billion are still under implementation.

    Going forward - supporting integration within the EU

    Going forward, the focus of the new member states will be on implementing the provisions of the acquis and making good use of EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. These \"structural funds\" are intended to bring improvements to economically depressed and socially deprived areas and to narrow the differences in income between the new and current EU members as fast as possible.

    In response to specific interest from the new member states, the World Bank is prepared to assist in those areas where the World Bank\'s global expertise or past country experience creates a comparative advantage. While the availability of EU structural funds will likely lower demand for World Bank finance, some of the new member states have already voiced interest in continuing World Bank advice and support to build the professional capacity of their public services.

    World Bank financial support would also be available to cover part of the \"counterpart\" financing which the new member states must contribute to projects funded with structural funds. The latter cover between 50 and 85 percent of project costs. In addition to covering the difference, the new members must pre-finance investments for subsequent reimbursement from the structural funds. World Bank funds would also be available for this purpose.

    Like all other EU member states, the eight Central European and Baltic countries must comply with the EU\'s Social Inclusion Policy adopted in 2000. This policy sets out goals to increase social and economic participation and to help vulnerable groups. To help fulfill these commitments, the World Bank is working with the Central European countries, the EU Commission, the Open Society Institute and other European partners to promote the inclusion of Roma into society and, more specifically, to improve educational opportunities for Roma youth through a Roma Education Fund which is being established.

    Working in Partnership

    The World Bank works in close cooperation with the European Commission and the principal European financial institutions. Partners include the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB), the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Black Sea Development Bank. In 1998 the World Bank and these partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the European Commission on cooperation in the EU accession and candidate countries.

    The MOU was amended in 2003 to include cooperation in Cyprus, Malta, and Turkey and provide for cooperation on education, health and pension reform. It also leaves open the possibility of cooperation in Croatia and other future candidate countries.

    Supporting Accession

    The World Bank has supported the accession countries with loans for investment projects and broader programs as well as analytical and advisory services.

    Examples of projects and programs include:

    >> Poland - In Poland, World Bank funding for rural development has enhanced rural roads and education, and built-up regional and local administrative capacity.

    >> Hungary - In Hungary, World Bank assistance for enterprise and financial sector reform helped create the conditions for private sector-led growth while support to pension reform helped the overhaul of public finances.

    >> Slovak Republic - In the Slovak Republic, the World Bank is supporting a major overhaul of the national health system with advice and lending.

    >> Latvia - In Latvia, World Bank support helped reduce pollution in the Baltic Sea by funding the improvement of waste water treatment facilities.

    >> Slovenia - In Slovenia, World Bank support brought together the key government agencies and the court system to implement a modern real estate registration system.

    Examples of analytical work and advice include:

    >> Country Economic Memoranda - In most of the new member States, World Bank economic analysis in the form of Country Economic Memoranda clarified the costs and benefits of macroeconomic reforms needed to meet EU requirements.

    >> Modernizing the Financial Sector - In the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania, the World Bank advised on modernizing the countries\' financial sectors.

    >> Building \"Knowledge-based\" Societies - In Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, the World Bank helped design strategies to build more competitive \"knowledge-based\" societies.

    >> Improving Governance - In Latvia, the World Bank is supporting reforms that address corruption, civil service improvements and public expenditure management.

    >> Modernizing Transport Networks - In the Baltic States, the World Bank has advised on modernizing transport networks.

    Assessing Economic Performance

    The World Bank\'s latest economic assessment shows output growth in the EU8 has held up well over the last two years despite weak growth in Western Europe and much of the world economy. Real GDP growth in the EU8 was around 2.5 percent (weighted average) in 2001 and 2002. It gained further momentum in 2003 to reach over 3 percent, and is projected to hit 4 percent in 2004. Nevertheless, overall growth in the region remains modest given the sizeable shortfall in income levels relative to existing member states.

    Within the EU8, the Baltic countries outperformed Central Europe, with growth averaging some 6 percent per year in 2001-03 on the back of rising private consumption and foreign investment. Meanwhile, incomes have expanded at a much slower pace of around 2.5 percent in Central Europe, held down by weak growth in Poland during 2001-02. Recent growth in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland has been supported by both exports and rising domestic consumption, including through a substantial fiscal expansion.

    With strong improvements in productivity and only moderately buoyant demand conditions, inflation has been controlled in most new members. But unemployment remains high, with rates of over 15 percent in Poland and the Slovak Republic, and over 10 percent in most of the other EU8. Under these circumstances, there has been insufficient progress in reducing persistent poverty and social exclusion, especially in rural areas.

    While structural reforms and EU integration should underpin growth in the medium term, the recovery in external demand may be slow. Further, the already weak fiscal position of the larger EU8 countries may been be exacerbated by spending pressures related to EU accession and demographic pressures on overly generous social entitlements.

    The EU8 countries also face significant challenges in upgrading infrastructure, meeting environmental standards. They will also face pressures to top-up direct payments to agriculture. In the longer-term there will be expenses to upgrade their public administrative capacity in order to implement the acquis communautaire and other EU commitments, in particular the Lisbon agreement on enhancing productivity.

    On the positive side, over 2004 to 2006, growth in these countries is expected to remain strong, although for some EU8 economies, domestic demand – especially public and private consumption – is being fueled by expansionary fiscal policies and/or rapid real wage growth. Effective implementation of the acquis communautaire and related structural reforms should provide a stronger foundation for sustainable growth.

    \"The new members from the Baltics and Central Europe have pursued a range of difficult reforms, ranging from the modernization of tax and financial systems to the reform of pensions, health, education, and infrastructure and energy. Their experience is directly relevant for the existing member states which are grappling with similar challenges as Europe tries to move closer to the Lisbon 2010 targets to foster dynamic, competitive societies,\"
    noted Mr. Katsu.

    * This note does not cover the two other countries that will join the EU on May 1, 2004, Cyprus and Malta, where the World Bank does not have active programs.

    Table 1. Lending Activities by Country 1989-2003

    Table 2. Lending Activities by Sector 1989-2003

    April 2004
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