Does Joining the EU Destroy Member States’ Economies?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Reading Time: 7 minutes


On June 4-7, Georgian-language Facebook users (1, 2, 3, 4) disseminated an open letter by philosopher Zaza Shatirishvili, in which he talks about European countries and the US and states that there is a tragically difficult situation there. In the letter, Shatirishvili asserts that for the second decade in the European Union, “transparency has been replaced by corruption, the rule of law by selective justice, and Christian values ​​by twisted pseudo-liberal ideology.” Also, according to him, already for the second decade, the economy of Europe, and therefore, all areas related to the economy are experiencing stagnation.

Shatirishvili’s letter was also distributed in the media (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

On June 8, the spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, made a similar statement about the economy of the European Union. She claims that the economies of all countries that become members of the European Union are gradually being destroyed.

anadgurebs thu ara evrokavshirshi gatsevrianeba qveqhnebis ekonomikas Does Joining the EU Destroy Member States’ Economies?

The claims voiced by Zakharova about economic growth in the European Union are false. In fact, after joining the European Union, the economies of the countries started developing at a fast pace, which is clearly reflected in the official figures. As for Shatirishvili’s statements, some of them are false or manipulative. In the rankings of the index of the rule of law and the perception of corruption, the member states of the European Union again occupy the leading positions. Economically, the European Union has indeed had a negative growth rate for several years, although it is still growing for the most part.

  • Zakharova disseminates false information regarding the European Union

Maria Zakharova, in an interview with Russian state-controlled media RT, said that for the country, joining the European Union would mean the destruction of its economy, which is a lie.

In order to negatively portray the EU accession process, they most often use the example of the last enlargement – Romania and Bulgaria, and claim that the economy of these countries has been gradually destroyed since 2007. In fact, the size of their economy has doubled. In particular, Romania’s GDP increased from 174 to 345 billion USD from 2007 to 2023, and GDP per capita increased from 8,273 to 18,175 USD. As for Bulgaria, its GDP increased from 44 to 101 billion USD, and GDP per capita from 5,815 to 15,854 USD. The membership of the European Union also brought an increase in wages. The average salary in Bulgaria in 2006 was 4,324 levs, which has been increasing every year since then, and in 2021 it was 18,733 levs. In Romania, similar indicators were 1150 lei in 2006, and in 2023 it equaled 7311 lei.

“Myth Detector” wrote about the false information voiced about the economies of Romania and Bulgaria in the past as well. For more details, see:

In addition to the mentioned two countries, significant economic growth can be observed in Central and Eastern European countries, which joined the European Union in 2004. For example, the GDP of Lithuania], Latvia, and Estonia quadrupled from 2003 to 2023. GDP per capita in the case of Lithuania increased almost five times, and in Latvia and Estonia, it increased more than four times. The situation is similar in other countries that joined in 2004:

  • In 2003-2023, the GDP of Cyprus increased from 14.55 to 32.19 billion dollars, and the GDP per capita increased from 20.3 to 34.9 thousand USD.
  • In the same years, Hungary’s GDP increased from 85 to 212 billion USD, GDP per capita – from 8.4 to 22.1 thousand USD.
  • In the case of Slovakia, GDP growth was recorded from 34 to 132 billion USD, and per capita from 6.3 to 24.3 thousand USD.
  • The GDP of Malta was 5.5 billion USD in the year before joining the EU and reached 21 billion in 2023. GDP per capita increased from 13.7 to 38.6 thousand USD.
  • In 2003, the GDP of the Czech Republic amounted to 100 billion USD, and in 2023 it reached 332 billion USD. As for GDP per capita, it increased from 9.8 to 30.6 thousand USD.
  • The Polish economy experienced a very large growth in the period 2003-2023. In particular, GDP increased from 217 to 808 billion USD, and per capita from 5.7 to 22 thousand USD.
  • Slovenia’s GDP increased from 30 to 68 billion USD during the mentioned period. GDP per capita increased from 14.8 to 32.4 thousand USD.

Economic Situation in the EU

Shatirishvili claims that the economy of the European Union has been stagnating for the last 2 decades. Since 2000, the organization’s economy has indeed had negative growth rates for several years, triggered by certain events, but it has been generally growing at a slower pace. The EU’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by more than 4% in 2009, driven by the 2008 global economic crisis. Negative indicators were also recorded in 2012 and 2013, although this change ranged from -0.1 to -0.9%. It is noted that in 2000-2007 GDP growth ranged from 1% to 4%, and in 2014-2019 it averaged 2%.

The EU economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with GDP shrinking by 5.6% in 2020, followed by 6% growth in 2021. The positive trend continued in 2022, when annual GDP growth amounted to 3.4%, although in 2023 this number reached only 0.4%, which was mainly due to increased prices for energy resources, more expensive credit, and reduced production in Germany.

According to the report of the International Monetary Fund, the annual growth of the real GDP of the European Union in 2024-2029 will be between 1% and 2%.

anadgurebs thu ara evrokavshirshi gatsevrianeba qveqhnebis ekonomikas1 Does Joining the EU Destroy Member States’ Economies?
GDP per capita growth (annual %) – European Union

EU countries occupy leading positions in the indices of transparency and corruption perception 

According to the World Justice Project (WJP) 2023 study, EU member states are leading in the rule of law rankings. The first and third places are occupied by Denmark and Finland, 8 in the first 10 and 12 in the top 20 are members of the European Union. In this regard, the lowest position is occupied by Hungary, which received only 0.51 out of the maximum 1 point and occupies the 73rd position in the world. It should be noted that Georgia ranks 48th with a score of 0.60 and is ahead of Bulgaria and Hungary, and occupies the first place in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (Montenegro; Kosovo; Kazakhstan; North Macedonia; Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Uzbekistan, Ukraine; Albania; Serbia; Kyrgyzstan; Belarus; Turkey).

The WJP data matches the results of The Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) survey, in which Denmark takes the first place with a maximum score of 1 point, while Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, and New Zealand share the second to sixth places with 0.99 points. Hungary has the lowest result among the member countries of the organization in this case as well, which has a worse result than Georgia.

anadgurebs thu ara evrokavshirshi gatsevrianeba qveqhnebis ekonomikas2 Does Joining the EU Destroy Member States’ Economies?

“Myth Detector” wrote about the rankings of EU member states and Georgia in terms of the rule of law in the past as well. See more:

It is important to note that the rule of law is a fundamental value of the European Union. Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union allows for the possibility of suspending European Union (EU) membership rights (such as voting rights in the Council of the European Union) if a country seriously and persistently breaches the principles on which the EU is founded as defined in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. The member states tried several times to invoke this clause against Hungary, however, the Polish government did not join the process and supported Hungary, which is why a consensus could not be reached.

Like the rule of law, EU members occupy the top positions in the ratings of corruption perception. According to the Transparency International study, in 2023 the leader in this field is Denmark, and Finland takes the second place. In the first ten, 6 places are occupied by the member states of the European Union, and additionally, 2 are occupied by the member states of the free trade zone of the European Union. Hungary received the lowest rating in this case as well (42 points out of 100). It is slightly ahead of Bulgaria (45) and Romania (46).


anadgurebs thu ara evrokavshirshi gatsevrianeba qveqhnebis ekonomikas3 Does Joining the EU Destroy Member States’ Economies?
Leaders of the Corruption Perception Index in 2023 

Despite the above results, the 2023 study found that the level of corruption in many European countries has slightly increased compared to previous years. Compared to 2012, 6 countries – Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Italy, and Ireland experienced significant progress. It is noted that one of the main problems, according to Transparency International, is that governments are less interested in holding companies accountable for entering new markets through bribery. It is also an important issue that banks are not monitored at an appropriate level, which increases the opportunities for money laundering. In addition, the fact that the identity of the real owners of companies registered in European countries is often not available to civil society and journalists is worth noting.

In May 2023, the European Commission presented an anti-corruption bill that would harmonize anti-corruption legislation in all member states and make it mandatory in EU law to criminalize the types of violations outlined in the UN Convention against Corruption. In February 2024, the European Parliament announced its own plan, which “Transparency International” notes in the report, that it envisages giving the EU new legal ways to fight corruption.

Archive links: 1, 2, 3.

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