When ten new member states joined the European Union in May 2004 they not only turned the EU into the world’s biggest market, but the accession of these central and eastern European countries also provided the necessary impetus for a fundamental re-evaluation of the EU’s economic and social model. In the twelve months since accession, the original fi fteen have witnessed at closer hand the tremendous social and economic reforms that have taken place in the eastern states. Will they fi nally have to sit up and take action?
In February 2005 the Stockholm Network and the Centre for New Europe collaborated to bring together some of the leading experts from eastern and western Europe to attempt to reach an answer to the question, does the West know best? Our authors reached a unanimous and unequivocal answer: the West does
not know best at all, and would do well to learn from its neighbours in the East.
Imagine a country where the tax system is very simple and transparent, and where all citizens and companies
pay a 19% fl at tax rate. Imagine a country without an overly regulated labour market and where the welfare system helps all those in need without removing the incentives for those who are able to work to fi nd a job quickly. Imagine a country with universal health insurance coverage, but where healthcare costs are not ballooning, in spite of an ageing population, because people are provided with a system that motivates them to make the right choices about their healthcare and health providers are actually compelled to be effi cient. Imagine a country where all citizens are ensured a decent, secure pension, because they are required to save a set amount from their salaries in their own private pension accounts, and so invest for their retirement.