The ten new countries

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The Independent Online

The Czech Republic has a population 10.3m, of which 300,000 are Roma; rich cultural heritage, home of Kafka and Dvorak

CZECH REPUBLIC

Tell me about it now
Population 10.3m, of which 300,000 are Roma; rich cultural heritage, home of Kafka and Dvorak

History
Split from Slovakia after 1989's "Velvet Revolution" ended Communist rule

What they bring to the party
A long tradition of beer-making; the capital, Prague, is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Europe

Potential problems
Growing Eurosceptic tendencies; domestic and UK concerns about marginalised Roma; rising crime

Links with Britain
Britain seen as reliable ally in defence terms; also consensus on social policy and other economic issues

Well-known figures
Vaclav Havel, playwright and former president

Idiosyncracies
Less known for its puppet theatres, best known for inventing lager in the 1840s

CYPRUS

Tell me about it now
Population 800,000, split between Greek and Turkish Cypriots; birthplace of goddess of love, Aphrodite (right)

History
Divided in two when Turkey invaded in 1974 after Athens-backed coup

What they bring to the party
Known as a sun-and-clubbing destination, but has Greek, Roman and Turkish cultural heritage

Potential problems
Divided island; Papadopolous is now Europe's Mr Unpopular after rejecting EU peace plan

Links with Britain
Major British military presence on the island; was once British-controlled

Well-known figures
Hüseyin Çaglayan (or Hussein Chalayan), Turkish Cypriot fashion designer; poet Osman Turkay, died 2001

Idiosyncracies
Known for invariably giving "douze points" to Greece and vice versa in the Eurovision song contest

ESTONIA

Tell me about it now
Population 1.4 million; gained independence in 1991 and now has Baltic region's most stable economy

History
Gained independence after First World War until Soviets invaded in 1940. Broke away from USSR in 1991

What they bring to the party
Has a fast-growing, innovative economy, which is less likely to collapse than some others

Potential problems
Hostile to ideas of tax harmonisation; resents French bullying and criticism for support of Iraq war

Links with Britain
Aided by Britain when attacked by Russia and Germany after gaining independence from Russia in 1918

Well-known figures
Award-winning novelist Jan Kross and poet Jaan Kaplinski; Sunderland goalkeeper Mart Poom

Idiosyncracies
Identifies closely with Finland (Estonians are of Finno-Ugric origin) and has a Finnish TV station

HUNGARY

Tell me about it now
Population 10.2m. Roma, German, Slovak, Croat, Serb, Romanian minorities

History
Made transition to democracy in 1989 after half century of Soviet occupation

What they bring to the party
Booming economy

Potential problems
Farmers concerned about reduced subsidies. Immigration issues

Links with Britain
Strong trade between Britain and Hungary

Well-known figures
Birthplace of numerous performers and composers, including Franz Liszt

Idiosyncracies
The first team to beat England at Wembley, it has mainland Europe's oldest metro

LATVIA

Tell me about it now
Population 2.4 million, of which 30 per cent Russian, with social and political problems

History
Independence ended by Soviet annexation in 1940; independent again in 1991

What they bring to the party
Booming economy

Potential problems
Tensions over foreigners buying land, and the teaching of Russian in schools

Links with Britain
Britain refused to recognise Stalin's annexation of Latvia

Well-known figures
Violinist Gidon Kremer; Karlis Rudevics, a Roma translator of poems on Gypsy life

Idiosyncracies
As of today, beer will be one of the alcoholic drinks whose sale is banned after 10pm

LITHUANIA

Tell me about it now
Population 3.5 million. First European country to impeach a president (Rolandas Paksas)

History
Annexed by the USSR in 1940. Declared independence from Soviets in 1990

What they bring to the party
Basketball players such as Zydrunas Ilgauskas, NBA star with the Cleveland Cavaliers

Potential problems
Tensions with large ethnic Russian population, heated political scene

Links with Britain
DTI funded the renewal of Visaginas, a town hit economically by closure of its local power plant

Well-known figures
Painter/composer, Konstantinas Ciurlionis; poet Czeslaw Milosz

Idiosyncracies
Boasts a revivalist pagan movement, having been Europe's last pagan country

MALTA

Tell me about it now
Population 400,000. Location makes it important trading post in Mediterranean

History
Long history of colonisation. Achieved independence from Britain in 1964

What they bring to the party
Tourist and film-maker hotspot (Gladiator was filmed there) because of archaeological sites

Potential problems
Idiosyncracies

Staunchly neutral, barely voted in favour of EU, reluctant to back more integration

Links with Britain
Largest Man United fan club outside UK

Well-known figures
Writers Francis Ebejer and Joseph Attard, Miriam Gauci (opera singer)

Idiosyncracies
"Ghana" is the island's favourite type of folk music

POLAND

Tell me about it now
Population 38.6 million Move from one-party state to democracy in 1991. Mainly Catholic

History
Occupied by Soviet Union from 1945-89. Lost 20% of population in Second World War

What they bring to the party
Has highly educated workforce, reasonable armed forces and strong ties with the UK

Potential problems
Wants to be seen as big player, but also wants money from central coffers

Links with Britain
Poles were among the best wartime RAF pilots: 140,000 fought with the Allies

Well-known figures
The composers Anton Gorecki and Chopin and Lech Walesa, Nobel prize winner

Idiosyncracies
Propensity for cavalry charges against Nazi tanks

SLOVAKIA

Tell me about it now
5.4 million people, most Catholic. Strong Czech and Hungarian influences

History
Slovaks joined Czechs in 1918 to form Czechoslovakia. Union ended in 1993

What they bring to the party
Surging economy

Potential problems
Struggling to stamp out corruption. Food industry worried EU rules will cut subsidies

Links with Britain
1997 TV programme about Czechs living in Dover made Slovak gypsies visit the town

Well-known figures
Artist Ladislav Mednyánszky. Middlesbrough striker Szilard Nemeth

Idiosyncracies
Slovak women are said to be much more passionate than their men

SLOVENIA

Tell me about it now
Population two million; only former Yugoslav republic in first wave of new member states

History
In Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918; independent from Yugoslavia in 1991

What they bring to the party
Most stable of former Communist countries; already wealthier than Greece and Portugal

Potential problems
Good record except for lost residency rights of thousands from former Yugoslav republics

Links with Britain
More ties with Italy, Germany and Austria but popular with the British for holidays

Well-known figures
France Preseren (d. 1849), poet

Idiosyncracies
"Sisters", gay transvestite band, won Eurovision nomination, 2002

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