EU E-Enlargement

18 December 2006

The European Union will grow again this January with the addition of Bulgaria and Romania.

The combined community in March 2006 had 230,396,996 Internet users, which is 49.8 percent of its 462,371,237 inhabitants (according Internet World Stats).

Bulgaria and Romania will, of course, boost those numbers. Bulgaria has a population of 7.5 million, with 2.2 million Internet users (a penetration of 28.5 percent) and user growth between 2000 and 2006 of 411.6 percent. Romania has a little over 21.2 million inhabitants, with 4.9 million Internet users (a penetration of 23.2 percent) and user growth between 2000 and 2006 of 517.5 percent.

A report released by the Eurostat statistics agency in 2006 (with statistics from '05) shows vast differences in the level of Internet use among EU nations.

For example, 78 percent of households in the Netherlands are connected to the Internet compared to just 16 percent in Lithuania. The Dutch also lead the way in domestic broadband access, with 54 percent of homes linked up compared to 1 percent in Greece, 4 percent in Cyprus and 5 percent in the Czech Republic.

In Greece, 73 percent of the population claims to have never used the Internet, the survey said--well above the EU average of 43 percent. More than half the citizens of the Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Portugal have never logged on to the Internet.

Among students, 93 percent across the EU have used the Internet.

Overall, the survey showed a rise in Internet connections since 2004. Domestic connections in the EU rose from 43 percent to 48 percent. The number of homes connected to broadband rose from 15 percent to 23 percent.

For EU businesses, Internet access rose from 89 percent to 91 percent, while broadband connections increased from 53 percent to 63 percent. At least 90 percent of businesses are linked to the Internet in all nations included in the survey, except Latvia, Hungary, Cyprus, Lithuania and Poland. Over 80 percent of firms in Sweden, Denmark and Finland have broadband access, compared to less than 45 percent in Cyprus, Poland and Greece.

As of Jan.1, 2007 the 27 member states of the European Union will be: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Candidates include Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey, while potential candidates include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.