Who are the candidate countries for membership of the European Union?

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Since its creation, the “Europe of six” (France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands) has only expanded. It has 27 member states since the last movement, the exit of the United Kingdom in 2020 as part of Brexit. In terms of entries, the last one dates back to Croatia’s accession in 2013. This is the longest period without a new member state since the interval between 1957 and 1973, the date of the first enlargement of the late European Economic Community ( EEC). But the war in Ukraine brings new relevance to the issue, further encouraging certain countries to want to join the Union.

Currently nine states are officially candidates for membership: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey.

First, the State must send its formal application to the Council of the EU. Kosovo is only at this stage in its candidacy, submitted on December 15, 2022, with the handicap that several EU members do not recognize it as a state since the declaration of its independence from from Serbia in 2008.

Compliance with EU political and economic criteria

To give the country the official status of candidate state, the European Commission evaluates its compliance with the political and economic criteria of the EU. The country must have “stable institutions guaranteeing the rule of law, democracy, human rights, respect for minorities and their protection”, while ensuring a viable market economy in the face of internal competition from the ‘Union. They must also adhere to European standards by translating them into legislation. A final condition concerns the absorption capacity of the EU, that is to say the economic capacity of the Union to welcome a new member.

After consulting the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, made up of ministers from each country, must unanimously decide to open a negotiation phase. Bosnia and Herzegovina reached this milestone in December 2022. The country “has made impressive progress. In just over a year, he has made more progress than in more than ten years,” the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, congratulated him on March 12. Georgia obtained the approval of the Council in December 2023. The Caucasian state submitted its candidacy in March 2022, in reaction to the invasion of Ukraine by its Russian neighbor.

Subsequently, negotiations can begin: the EU sends experts to the candidate country to verify the conformity of administrative, political and economic structures with community law. This long phase ends with the ratification of the accession treaty by the 27 member states. Currently, seven countries are in the negotiation phase. North Macedonia, a candidate since 2005, only reached this level of discussions 17 years later, in 2022, thanks to the lifting of Bulgaria’s veto. Montenegro, a candidate since 2010, has been in the negotiation process since 2012. Same situation for Serbia, a candidate since 2012, which began talks in 2014. As for Albania, officially a candidate in 2014, the accession negotiations are not didn’t start until 2022.

Special cases

The only exceptions to these deadlines: Ukraine and Moldova quickly entered the negotiation phase, due to the war on the territory of the first and the threat weighing on the second. Kyiv filed its candidacy five days after Russia’s 2022 invasion and was granted official candidate status four months later. The European Council opened accession negotiations for the two countries on December 14.

Finally, the case of Turkey is different. The country has had candidate status since 1999, and negotiations began in 2005. However, its accession has provoked numerous debates regarding its geographical position, its demographic weight, the place of political Islam, the non-recognition of Armenian genocide and the authoritarian slope of the presidency of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Accession negotiations with Turkey are at a standstill,” the EU Council said in June 2019.

This article is originally published on liberation.fr

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