NICOSIA - Most Cypriots believe that joining the European Union ten years ago was a good thing but financial data shows that crisis-hit Cyprus is actually worse off than it was in 2004.
Ten years ago on May 1, the European Union expanded the most in its history. A community with 15 states became a bloc of 25 (it now has 28 members).
The expansion was mainly eastward, absorbing eight countries formerly controlled by or part of the Soviet Union, and unleashing big waves of migration to the west. But the EU also acquired two small Mediterranean states.
According to the Economist magazine, there are four clear winners in the prosperity league. Two Baltic countries, Lithuania and Latvia, together with Poland and Slovakia, have made gains of over 40% in GDP per person.
The advances in the Baltic economies (including Estonia’s 30% gain) are particularly notable since all three experienced savage downturns in 2009, after the financial crisis.
“There is also one clear loser. Cypriots have actually become less well-off, suffering a 13% decline in living standards since 2004,” said the globally respected Economist.
“Slovenia, which also experienced a big banking crisis (though not on the scale of Cyprus’), has also done badly, with GDP per person rising by only 7%,” it added.
Among the wave of ten, six have since adopted the euro, most recently Latvia at the start of 2014.
Those joining the single currency before the financial crisis peaked in late 2008, such as Slovenia in 2007 and Cyprus in 2008, have done worse than those joining after it, such as Estonia in 2011.
“But Cyprus’ reckless banking expansion dated back to joining the EU rather than the euro. And Hungary, outside the euro, has done almost as badly as Slovenia, within it