Joaquin Almunia, EU commissioner of Commerce and Finance, presented a report in Brussels suggesting that the extension of the European Union from 15 to 25 member states 2 years ago has proved to be an advantage to everyone. The report also shows that fears of job cuts and relocation were exaggerated. It furthermore states that in future only Germany and Austria will maintain a formal protectionism to their labour markets granting work permits solely in individual cases. Seven old members are ready to lift restrictions completely, whereas six countries plan to facilitate access to their labour markets.
According to the report the EU capitalises on the increasing trade volumes within the common market and is furthermore better prepared for the challenges being faced on the world market. Concerning investment in the new member states, Germany comes first with investments in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slowakia, whereas the Scandinavian countries come second with investments in the Baltic States. Between 1994 and 2004 the commercial exchange between old and new members is said to have quadrupled.
In particular Germany and Austria have taken advantage of the enlargement of the EU being the major investors in the new member states. According to Joaquim Almunia, most direct investment is made in the field of services followed by investment in manufacturing industry.