Despite this progress, the success of opponents of enlargement in the EU is the success that comes back to the EU`s `absorption capacity`, an essential condition for further enlargement. The requirement that the EU can only be expanded if it is able to welcome new members without compromising the dynamics of European integration was one of the criteria set out by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993. It was challenged because it was a condition that was beyond the control of the candidate countries and could therefore become an instrument for the reluctant governments of the Member States to put an end to enlargement. In case the notion of eu absorption capacity did not play a big role in the 2004 enlargement. In 2006, the Commission sought to define more clearly and more functionally what this concept entails: the impact of enlargement on the EU budget and its ability to implement common policies, as well as on effective and responsible decision-making. At the 1997 Luxembourg Summit, the EU adopted the Commission`s opinion inviting Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus to start talks on EU membership. The negotiation process began on March 31, 1998. Poland concluded accession negotiations in December 2002. On 16 April 2003, the accession treaty was signed in Athens (the 2003 accession treaty). Following the ratification of this treaty in the referendum on EU membership in Poland in 2003, Poland and other nine countries became members of the EU on 1 May 2004. The impact of enlargement on democracy in the new Member States and candidate countries The case of the United Kingdom is rich in this regard. The United Kingdom was one of the few Member States to choose not to restrict the free movement of workers after enlargement in 2004. Immigration from the new Member States to the United Kingdom, particularly Poland, was much higher than the government had planned.
(27) At the same time, labour immigration from (new) EU Member States probably contributed significantly to the UK`s economic growth in the mid-2000s. Nevertheless, the British government decided to close its labour market for up to seven years, when Bulgaria and Romania joined in 2007 in response to perceived public hostility. The success of the Eurosceptic Party for the Independence of the United Kingdom in the European elections of May 2014 can be attributed, at least in part, to its successful appeal to public concerns about immigration from (new) EU Member States. Indeed, negative public opinion about the (continuation) of the EU`s enlargement to the east generally seems to be motivated by perceived cultural threats and anti-immigration attitudes, which are in turn framed by the media and populist politicians. (28) From the perspective of enlargement, we conclude that Member States have not only defended their own interests, but have also felt obliged to justify their actions and to respect the standards and principles accepted by all. Some important decisions were taken on the basis of an agreement on “good action” following arguments deemed legitimate by all parties involved. Therefore, the legitimacy of enlargement lies not only in the benefits of enlargement, but also in the values that the EU promotes and on the fairness and coherence with which the EU applies it. Therefore, the blind men of Puchala could constantly stumble into the costs and benefits of different sizes and appearances when describing enlargement. However, beneath the rugged surface of this elephant called the EU, stubbornly blind men could find arguments that could be shared among citizens to justify the need to advance EU enlargement despite its costs.