Austria was once the centre of the Austro-Hungarian empire. After World War I it became a federal republic, which was annexed by Nazi Germany in 1938. In the period following World War II, Austria developed gradually into a prosperous country with a healthy economy and a relatively secure social system. It joined the European Union in 1995. Because of its neutrality and its geographical position, Austria has often been a bridge-builder between East and West, politically and culturally. The churches participate also in this mediating role. The main religious group in Austria is the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant churches (Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist and Baptist) are a minority of about 6 percent of the population. The Methodist Church is part of the United Methodist Church and thus also of the WCC. There is an Old-Catholic Church and also a sizeable Orthodox minority, among which the Greek Orthodox Church is the oldest, and the Serbian Orthodox Church the largest group. Ecumenical partnership has been common practice for decades. The churches work together in the Ecumenical Council of Churches, regardless of their size. The Roman Catholic Church has been a full member of the council since 1994. Good interfaith relationships exist with the Jewish and Muslim communities. The official recognition of Islam by the state has helped to create a climate of mutual understanding. There is an Evangelical Alliance of Austria, which is affiliated with the WEA.