A recent review of the EU public opinion literature shows increasing hostility among EU citizens. (12) From 2012 on, EU-wide representative surveys show a clear negative opinion on enlargement. And even when previous investigations still complained about net aid, the overall support of many former Member States, particularly France, Germany and Austria, has been the subject of considerable and growing opposition. It is in these countries that public opposition to enlargement remains the strongest. There also seems to be an East-West divide in attitude towards further enlargements: in all the old Member States, with the exception of Spain, a majority of the population is opposed to further enlargement, while in the post-communist Member States, with the exception of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the majority are in favour of enlargement. Today, the accession process follows a series of formal measures ranging from a pre-accession agreement to ratification of the final accession treaty. These measures are mainly led by the European Commission (Enlargement Commissioner and DG Enlargement), but the real negotiations are technically taking place between the EU Member States and the candidate country. 56 The process of EU enlargement, which introduces the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, is remarkable for many reasons. The next wave of enlargement is the largest and most complex the EU has faced since its inception. It includes countries that lag further behind in terms of economic performance than Spain, Greece and Portugal when they joined the EEC in the 1980s. In addition, the CEECs are emerging from 12 years of transition that have profoundly and rapidly changed their economic and productive structures. In these circumstances, this new stage of European unification can have a greater influence on the economic geography, both within and between the Member States, than on previous waves.
From an economic point of view, the benefits of enlargement are obvious (Baldwin et al., 1997; Estrin and Holmes, 1998). Increased trade and capital flows to candidate countries after accession will also increase their growth potential, further increasing imports from the EU-15 and thus contributing positively to EU GNP. The benefits of a wider market are reinforced by the fact that the supply of cheaper resources and cheaper but skilled labour, as well as economies of scale, will lead to increased efficiency gains, due to increased competition, better allocation of resources and greater specialisation, which will strengthen European competitiveness in the global market.