The EU added more than 75 million people to its jurisdiction with the addition of 10 new member states in May.
The huge expansion included Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The new member states were considerably poorer than most of the previous European Union members, and despite their lower standards of living, and eight of the new EU members' long histories of socialism under Soviet domination, some of the new states have more liberalized economies than their wealthier, Western partners, according to many observers.
For instance, Estonia, the "darling of free-marketeers" according to one economist, had a zero tax rate on reinvested or retained corporate profits, compared to corporate tax rates of 39.4 percent in Germany and 34.3 percent in France.
Joining the EU gave the new entrants unfettered access to the world's largest tariff-free market, while they will have to accept 97,000 pages of EU law from the monstrous bureaucracy in Brussels, Belgium.
The new regulations were designed to raise environmental and workplace-safety standards, but also reached into the far corners of the economy, making labor and other costs of doing business much more expensive, some analysts say.
While there was a slight backlash of opinion about their newly acquired status among the populations of some countries, most of the new member states' citizens were very supportive of their governments' decisions to join the organization.