Potential enlargement of the European Union

Potential candidates for admission into the European Union

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Candidate countries

Applicant countries




Treaties of accession

Treaties of succession

Other treaties

Abandoned treaties and agreements
Judicial institutions
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European Investment Bank Group

European Stability Mechanism

European University Institute

Unified Patent Court


Other independent bodies


Inter-institutional bodies


Foreign relations of EU member states



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There are seven recognised candidates for membership of the European Union: Turkey (applied in 1987), North Macedonia (2004), Montenegro (2008), Albania (2009), Serbia (2009), Ukraine (2022), and Moldova (2022). Additionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia and Kosovo (whose independence is not recognised by five EU member states) are considered potential candidates for membership by the EU.[1][2] Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia have formally submitted applications for membership, while Kosovo has a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, which generally precedes the lodging of a membership application.

Montenegro and Serbia, the most advanced candidates, are both expected to join earlier than the others.[3] Due to multiple factors, Turkish talks are at an effective standstill.[4]

The accession criteria are included in the Copenhagen criteria, agreed in 1993, and the Treaty of Maastricht (Article 49). Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty (as amended) says that any "European state" that respects the "principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law", may apply to join the EU. Whether a country is European or not is subject to political assessment by the EU institutions.[5] Past enlargement since the foundation of the European Union (EU) as the European Economic Community by the Inner Six states in 1958[6] brought total membership of the EU to twenty-eight, although as a result of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the current number of EU member states is twenty-seven.

Of the four major western European countries that are not EU members, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland have submitted membership applications in the past but subsequently frozen or withdrawn them, while the United Kingdom is a former member. Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, as well as Liechtenstein, participate in the EU Single Market and also in the Schengen Area, which makes them closely aligned with the EU; none, however, are in the EU Customs Union.

Current agenda and applicants

EU Enlargement and Foreign Relations
EUROPEAN UNION
ENLARGEMENT AGENDA
TURKEY
WESTERN
BALKANS
DCFTA STATES
GEORGIA
MOLDOVA
UKRAINE
EEA STATES
ICELAND
LIECH.
NORWAY
BILATERAL INTEGRATION
SWITZ.
AND.
MON.
S.M.
VAT.
TERRITORIES
FAROES
GREENLAND
N. CYP.
OTHER STATES
ALGERIA
ARMENIA
AZER.
BELARUS
EGYPT
IRAN
IRAQ
ISRAEL
JORDAN
KAZAKHSTAN
LEB.
LIBYA
MOROCCO
PAL.
RUSSIA
SYRIA
TUNISIA
UK
Desc-i.svg

The present enlargement agenda of the European Union regards three distinct groups of states:

These states must negotiate the terms of their EU accession with the current member states, and align their domestic legislation with EU law before joining.

Turkey has a long-standing application with the EU, but their accession negotiations have stalled since 2016.[7] This is due to the political issues surrounding the accession of the country.[8] As for the Western Balkan states, the EU had pledged to include them after the Yugoslav Wars: two states have entered (Slovenia in 2004 and Croatia in 2013), four are candidates, and the remaining two have pre-accession agreements.[9]

Flag of Serbia.svg
SERBIA
CANDIDATE SINCE 2012
NEGOTIATING
Flag of Montenegro.svg
MONTENEGRO
CANDIDATE SINCE 2010
NEGOTIATING
Flag of North Macedonia.svg
NORTH
MACEDONIA
CANDIDATE SINCE 2005
NEGOTIATING
Flag of Albania.svg
ALBANIA
CANDIDATE SINCE 2014
NEGOTIATING
Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg
BOSNIA AND
HERZEGOVINA
APPLIED IN 2016
Flag of Kosovo.svg
KOSOVO [*]
POTENTIAL
CANDIDATE
Flag of Croatia.svg
CROATIA
MEMBER SINCE 2013
Flag of Slovenia.svg
SLOVENIA
MEMBER SINCE 2004
ROMANIA
ITALY
GREECE

The European Union has made a commitment to accept the countries of the Western Balkans as full EU members

Desc-i.svg

There are other states in Europe that either seek membership or could potentially apply if their present foreign policy changes or the EU gives a signal that they might now be included on the enlargement agenda. However, these are not formally part of the current agenda, which is already delayed due to bilateral disputes in the Balkans and difficulty in fully implementing the acquis communautaire (the accepted body of EU law).

It was previously the norm for enlargements to see multiple entrants join the Union at once. The only previous enlargements of a single state were the 1981 admission of Greece and the 2013 admission of Croatia.

However, the EU members have warned that, following the significant impact of the fifth enlargement in 2004, a more individual approach will be adopted in the future, although the entry of pairs or small groups of countries will most probably coincide.[10]

Western Balkans

The Summary table has links to articles about the EU relations to each of these countries

The 2003 European Council summit in Thessaloniki set the integration of the Western Balkans as a priority of EU expansion. This commitment was made in order to stabilise the region in the wake of the Yugoslav Wars, a series of ethnic wars through the 1990s that led to the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav country to join EU in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2013.

Albania, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Montenegro are all candidate states, and all of them are in negotiations.[11] Bosnia and Herzegovina has applied to join but is not yet recognised as a candidate while Kosovo, which is not recognised by 5 EU states or by Serbia, plans to apply by the end of 2022.[12]

Serbia and Montenegro have started accession negotiations and may join the EU in 2025.[13]

The European Council had endorsed starting negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia on 26 March 2020,[14] however the negotiation process was blocked by Bulgaria for over two years.[15] In June 2022 French President Emmanuel Macron submitted a compromise proposal which, if adopted by both countries, would pave the way for the immediate adoption of negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania by the EU Council and for the organization of intergovernmental conferences with them.[16] On 24 June 2022, Bulgaria's parliament approved the revised French proposal to lift the country's veto on opening EU accession talks with North Macedonia, with the Assembly of North Macedonia also doing so on 16 July 2022 allowing accession negotiations to begin. On the same day, the restart of negotiations was set for July 19, 2022.[17]

Turkey

Turkey's candidacy to join the EU has been a matter of major significance and considerable controversy since it was granted in 1999. Turkey has had historically close ties with the EU, having an association agreement since 1964,[18] being in a customs union with the EU since 1995 and initially applying to join in 1987. Only after a summit in Brussels on 17 December 2004 (following the major 2004 enlargement) did the European Council announce that membership negotiations with Turkey were officially opened on 3 October 2005.

Turkey is the eleventh largest economy in the world, and is a key regional power.[19][20] In 2006, Carl Bildt, former Swedish foreign minister, stated that "[The accession of Turkey] would give the EU a decisive role for stability in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which is clearly in the strategic interest of Europe."[21]

However, others, such as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, opposed Turkey's membership. Opponents argue that Turkey does not respect the key principles that are expected in a liberal democracy, such as the freedom of expression.[22] Turkey's large population would also alter the balance of power in the representative European institutions. Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 84 million inhabitants would bestow it the largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament. It would become the most populous country in the EU.[23] Another problem is that Turkey does not recognise one EU state, Cyprus, because of the Cyprus problem and the Cypriot government blocks some chapters of Turkey's talks.

Turkey's relations with the EU have seriously deteriorated in the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt and subsequent purges.[24][25] On 24 November 2016, the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution calling for the "temporary freeze of the ongoing accession negotiations with Turkey" over human rights and rule of law concerns.[26][27][28] On 13 December, the European Council (comprising the heads of state or government of the member states) resolved that it would open no new areas in Turkey's membership talks in the "prevailing circumstances",[29] as Turkey's path toward autocratic rule made progress on EU accession impossible.[30] As of 2022, and especially following Erdoğan's victory in the constitutional referendum, Turkish accession talks are effectively at a standstill.[4][31][32]

Association Trio

In 2005, the European Commission suggested in a strategy paper that the present enlargement agenda could potentially block the possibility of a future accession of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.[33] Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement between 2004 and 2010, said on occasion that the EU should "avoid overstretching our capacity, and instead consolidate our enlargement agenda," adding, "this is already a challenging agenda for our accession process."[34]

Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine ratified an Association Agreement with the EU, and the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2014 stating that "in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, as well as any other European country, have a European perspective, can apply for EU membership in compliance with the principles of democracy, respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, minority rights and ensuring the rule of rights."[35] They also entered the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU, which creates "framework for modernising [...] trade relations and for economic development by the opening of markets via the progressive removal of customs tariffs and quotas, and by an extensive harmonisation of laws, norms and regulations in various trade-related sectors, creating the conditions for aligning key sectors" of their economies with EU standards.[36] However, the EU did not expand further into the post-Soviet space in the 2010s.[37]

By January 2021, Georgia and Ukraine were preparing to formally apply for EU membership in 2024.[38][39][40] However, following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine submitted an application for EU membership on 28 February 2022, followed by Georgia and Moldova on 3 March 2022.[41][42] On 23 June 2022, the European Council granted candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine, and recognized Georgia as a potential candidate for membership.[43]

Summary table

State[44] Status Last step Next step
Albania Albania Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Albania were opened in July 2022.[45] None of the 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened or closed yet. Every chapter must be closed to conclude the negotiations and join the European Union.
Montenegro Montenegro Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Montenegro were opened in June 2012. All 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened, of which 3 have been provisionally closed.[46] Every chapter must be closed to conclude the negotiations and join the European Union.
North Macedonia North Macedonia Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with North Macedonia were opened in July 2022.[45] None of the 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened or closed yet. Every chapter must be closed to conclude the negotiations and join the European Union.
Serbia Serbia Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Serbia were opened in January 2014. Out of 34 applicable negotiating chapters, 18 have been opened, of which 2 have been provisionally closed.[47] Every chapter must be closed to conclude the negotiations and join the European Union.
Moldova Moldova Candidate The European Council granted candidate status to Moldova in June 2022.[43] Nine key areas recommended by the Commission have to be addressed to proceed further. The Commission will provide a detailed assessment of the country by the end of 2022.[48]
Ukraine Ukraine Candidate The European Council granted candidate status to Ukraine in June 2022.[43] Seven key areas recommended by the Commission have to be addressed to proceed further. The Commission will provide a detailed assessment of the country by the end of 2022.[48]
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Applicant
(also recognised as a potential candidate)
Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its application for EU membership in February 2016.[49] Further political and economic reforms are needed before the Commission can recommend granting candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina.[49]
Georgia (country) Georgia Applicant
(also recognised as a potential candidate)
Georgia submitted its application for EU membership in March 2022.[50] Further political and economic reforms are needed before the Commission can recommend granting candidate status to Georgia.[48]
Kosovo Kosovo
(independence disputed)
Potential candidate The EU-Kosovo Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) has been in force since April 2016.[51] Prime Minister of Kosovo Albin Kurti stated that he planned to formally submit an application for membership by the end of 2022.[52]
Turkey Turkey Candidate with frozen negotiations Accession negotiations with Turkey were opened in October 2005. Out of 33 applicable negotiating chapters, 16 have been opened, of which 1 has been provisionally closed.[53] Turkey's accession negotiations are frozen and, under the current circumstances, no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing.[53] The European Parliament committee voted to suspend the accession talks in 2019.[54][55][56]

Timeline

Event Candidates negotiating[57] Candidates[57] Applicants[Note 1] Potential candidates[57] Candidates with frozen negotiations Past enlargement (for reference)
Albania[58] Montenegro[59] North Macedonia[60] Serbia[61] Moldova Ukraine Bosnia and Herzegovina[62] Georgia Kosovo[63] [Note 2] Turkey[64] Finland Czech Republic Bulgaria Croatia
EU Association Agreement[Note 3] negotiations start 31 Jan 2003 10 Oct 2005[Note 4] 5 Apr 2000 10 Oct 2005[Note 5] Jan 2010[66] 5 Mar 2007 25 Nov 2005 Jan 2010 28 Oct 2013[67] 1959AA
1970CU
1990 1990 1990 24 Nov 2000
EU Association Agreement signature 12 Jun 2006 15 Oct 2007 9 Apr 2001 29 Apr 2008 27 Jun 2014 21 Mar 2014AA
27 Jun 2014DCFTA
16 Jun 2008 27 Jun 2014 27 Oct 2015[68] 12 Sep 1963AA
1995CU
2 May 1992 4 Oct 1993 8 Mar 1993 29 Oct 2001
EU Association Agreement entry into force 1 Apr 2009 1 May 2010 1 Apr 2004 1 Sep 2013 1 Jul 2016 1 Sep 2017 1 Jun 2015[69] 1 Jul 2016 1 Apr 2016[70] 1 Dec 1964AA
31 Dec 1995CU[71]
1 Jan 1994 1 Feb 1995 1 Feb 1995 1 Feb 2005
Membership application submitted 28 Apr 2009 15 Dec 2008 22 Mar 2004 22 Dec 2009 3 Mar 2022[72] 28 Feb 2022[73] 15 Feb 2016[74] 3 Mar 2022[50] (tbd) 14 Apr 1987 18 Mar 1992 17 Jan 1996 14 Dec 1995 21 Feb 2003
Council asks Commission for opinion 16 Nov 2009 23 Apr 2009 17 May 2004 25 Oct 2010[75] 7 Mar 2022[76] 7 Mar 2022[76] 20 Sep 2016[77] 7 Mar 2022[76] (tbd) 27 Apr 1987 6 Apr 1992 29 Jun 1996 29 Jan 1996 14 Apr 2003
Commission presents legislative questionnaire to applicant 16 Dec 2009 22 Jul 2009 1 Oct 2004 24 Nov 2010 11 Apr 2022 (Part I)
19 Apr 2022 (Part II)[78]
8 Apr 2022 (Part I)
13 Apr 2022 (Part II)[79]
9 Dec 2016[80] 11 Apr 2022 (Part I)
19 Apr 2022 (Part II)[78][81]
(tbd) Mar 1996 Apr 1996 10 Jul 2003
Applicant responds to questionnaire 11 Jun 2010 12 Apr 2010 10 May 2005 22 Apr 2011 22 Apr 2022 (Part I)[82]
12 May 2022 (Part II)[83]
17 Apr 2022 (Part I)[84]
9 May 2022 (Part II)[85]
28 Feb 2018 2 May 2022 (Part I)[86]
10 May 2022 (Part II)[87]
(tbd) Jun 1997 25 Apr 1997 9 Oct 2003
Commission issues its opinion (and subsequent reports) 2010-2013 9 Nov 2010 2005–2009 12 Oct 2011 17 Jun 2022[48] 17 Jun 2022[48] 2019[88]–present 17 Jun 2022[48] (tbd) 1989, 1997–2004 4 Nov 1992 15 Jul 1997 1997–99 20 Apr 2004
Commission recommends granting of candidate status 16 Oct 2013[89] 9 Nov 2010 9 Nov 2005 12 Oct 2011 17 Jun 2022[48] 17 Jun 2022[48] (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 13 Oct 1999 4 Nov 1992 15 Jul 1997 15 Jul 1997 20 Apr 2004
Council grants candidate status to Applicant 27 Jun 2014[90][91] 17 Dec 2010[92] 17 Dec 2005 1 Mar 2012 23 Jun 2022[43] 23 Jun 2022[43] (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 12 Dec 1999 21 Dec 1992 12 Dec 1997 12 Dec 1997 18 Jun 2004
Commission recommends starting of negotiations 9 Nov 2016[93] 12 Oct 2011 14 Oct 2009 22 Apr 2013[94] (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 6 Oct 2004 4 Nov 1992 15 Jul 1997 13 Oct 1999 6 Oct 2004
Council sets negotiations start date 26 Jun 2018[95][96][97] 26 Jun 2012[98] 18 Jun 2019[97] 17 Dec 2013[99] (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 17 Dec 2004 21 Dec 1992 12 Dec 1997 10 Dec 1999 2004, 2005
Membership negotiations start 19 Jul 2022[45] 29 Jun 2012 19 Jul 2022[45] 21 Jan 2014[100] (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 3 Oct 2005 1 Feb 1993 31 Mar 1998 15 Feb 2000 3 Oct 2005
Membership negotiations end (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 1994 13 Dec 2002 17 Dec 2004 30 Jun 2011
Accession Treaty signature (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 24 Jun 1994 16 Apr 2003 25 Apr 2005 9 Dec 2011
EU joining date (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) (tbd) 1 Jan 1995 1 May 2004 1 Jan 2007 1 Jul 2013
  1. ^ Both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Georgia are also recognised as potential candidates.
  2. ^ The European Union remains divided on its policy towards Kosovo, with five EU member states not recognising its independence.
  3. ^ EU Association Agreement type: Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) for the Western Balkans states participating in the Stabilisation and Association process of the EU (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo through the STM); Association Agreement and Customs Union for Turkey; European Economic Area (EEA) for Iceland and Finland (reference state of the Fourth Enlargement); Europe Agreement for the reference states of the Fifth Enlargement.
  4. ^ Montenegro started negotiations in November 2005 while a part of Serbia and Montenegro. Separate technical negotiations were conducted regarding issues of sub-state organizational competency. A mandate for direct negotiations with Montenegro was established in July 2006. Direct negotiations were initiated on 26 September 2006 and concluded on 1 December 2006.[65]
  5. ^ Serbia started negotiations in November 2005 while part of Serbia and Montenegro, with a modified mandate from July 2006.

Level of preparation for acquis chapters

Level of preparation for adopting the acquis communautaire in each policy area, according to the 2021 European Commission reports.[101]

Acquis chapter Candidates negotiating Candidates Applicants Potential candidates Candidates with frozen negotiations
Albania[102] Montenegro[46] North Macedonia[103] Serbia[47] Moldova Ukraine Bosnia and Herzegovina[49] Georgia Kosovo[51] Turkey[53]
1. Free Movement of Goods Some / Moderate Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Good level of preparation
2. Freedom of Movement for Workers Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Early stage Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Moderately prepared Early stage
3. Right of Establishment & Freedom to Provide Services Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Moderately prepared Early stage
4. Free Movement of Capital Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Moderately prepared To be determined Some level of preparation Moderately prepared
5. Public Procurement Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some / Moderate Moderately prepared
6. Company Law Moderately prepared Good level of preparation Good level of preparation Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some level of preparation Well advanced
7. Intellectual Property Law Some / Moderate Good level of preparation Moderately prepared Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Moderately prepared To be determined Some level of preparation Good level of preparation
8. Competition Policy Some / Moderate Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage / Some Some level of preparation
9. Financial Services Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some / Moderate To be determined Moderately prepared Good level of preparation
10. Information Society & Media Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Some level of preparation
11. Agriculture & Rural Development Some level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Some level of preparation To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Some level of preparation
12. Food Safety, Veterinary & Phytosanitary Policy Some level of preparation Moderately prepared Good level of preparation Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some level of preparation Some level of preparation
13. Fisheries Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Early stage Some level of preparation
14. Transport Policy Some level of preparation Moderate / Good Moderately prepared Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage / Some Moderately prepared
15. Energy Moderately prepared Good level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Moderately prepared
16. Taxation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some level of preparation Moderately prepared
17. Economic & Monetary Policy Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation
18. Statistics Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Moderately prepared
19. Social Policy & Employment Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage Some level of preparation
20. Enterprise & Industrial Policy Moderately prepared Moderate / Good Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Moderately prepared Moderately prepared
21. Trans-European Networks Some level of preparation Moderate / Good Good level of preparation Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some level of preparation Well advanced
22. Regional Policy & Coordination of Structural Instruments Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Moderately prepared
23. Judiciary & Fundamental Rights Some / Moderate Moderately prepared Some / Moderate Some level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage / Some Early stage
24. Justice, Freedom & Security Some / Moderate Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Some level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage / Some Moderately prepared
25. Science & Research Some level of preparation Good level of preparation Good level of preparation Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage Well advanced
26. Education & Culture Moderately prepared Good level of preparation Moderately prepared Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Early stage Moderately prepared
27. Environment & Climate Change Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Some level of preparation To be determined To be determined Early stage / Some To be determined Early stage Some level of preparation
28. Consumer & Health Protection Early stage Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Early stage Good level of preparation
29. Customs Union Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Good level of preparation Good level of preparation To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Moderately prepared Good level of preparation
30. External Relations Good level of preparation Good level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Early stage Moderately prepared
31. Foreign, Security & Defence Policy Good level of preparation Good level of preparation Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Some level of preparation To be determined Some level of preparation
32. Financial Control Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared Moderately prepared To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation Good level of preparation
33. Financial & Budgetary Provisions Some level of preparation Some level of preparation Early stage Some level of preparation To be determined To be determined Early stage To be determined Some level of preparation
34. Institutions Nothing to negotiate Nothing to negotiate Nothing to negotiate Nothing to negotiate To be determined To be determined Nothing to negotiate To be determined Nothing to negotiate
35. Other Issues Nothing to negotiate Nothing to negotiate Nothing to negotiate To be determined To be determined Nothing to negotiate To be determined Nothing to negotiate
  Well advanced
  Good / Well advanced
  Good level of preparation
  Moderate / Good
  Moderately prepared
  Some / Moderate
  Some level of preparation
  Early stage / Some
  Early stage

States not on the agenda

The Maastricht Treaty (Article 49) states that any European country (as defined by a European Council assessment) that is committed to democracy may apply for membership in the European Union.[104] In addition to European states, other countries have also been speculated or proposed as future members of the EU.

Sovereign states

States in Europe who have chosen, for various reasons, not to join the EU have integrated with it to different extents according to their circumstances. Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein participate directly in the single market via the EEA, Switzerland does so via bilateral treaties and the other European microstates (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City) have specific agreements with the EU and neighbouring countries, including their use of the euro as their currency. Most of these countries are also part of the Schengen Area. Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland have all previously had live applications to join the EU, which have been withdrawn or otherwise frozen. Such applications could be resubmitted in the event of a change in the political landscape.

 Armenia
European Union Armenia Locator.svg Main article: Armenia–European Union relations
Relationship: Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.[105]
Main obstacles: Dispute with Azerbaijan regarding Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh.[citation needed]
Proponents: Armenian National Movement Party,[106] Bright Armenia, European Party of Armenia,[107] For The Republic Party, Free Democrats, Heritage,[108] People's Party of Armenia,[109] Republic Party, Rule of Law,[110] Sovereign Armenia Party,[111] Union for National Self-Determination[112]
Opponents: Prosperous Armenia[113]
Public opinion: 40% in favour, 11% against (2020 poll)[114]
 Belarus
European Union Belarus Locator.svg Main article: Belarus–European Union relations
Relationship:
Main obstacles: Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian rule, Russian political influence, Union State (integration with Russia).
Proponents: Belarusian Christian Democracy, BPF Party, United Democratic Forces of Belarus, Belarusian Liberal Party of Freedom and Progress, United Civic Party of Belarus, Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Assembly), Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly
Opponents: Russian government, Alexander Lukashenko
Public opinion: 42.1% in favour (2013 poll with several options)[115]
 Iceland
European Union Iceland Locator.svg Main article: Iceland–European Union relations
Relationship: Member of the European Economic Area and Schengen Area, frozen membership application.
Main obstacles: Common Fisheries Policy[116] and others.
Proponents: Social Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Bright Future
Opponents: Independence Party, Left-Green Movement, Progressive Party
Public opinion: 47% in favour, 33% against (2022 poll).[117]
 Norway
European Union Norway Locator.svg Main article: Norway–European Union relations
Relationship: Member of the European Economic Area and Schengen Area, frozen application, but not withdrawn.
Main obstacles: Common Fisheries Policy and others, public opinion.
Proponents: Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Party
Opponents: Progress Party, Centre Party, Red Party, Socialist Left Party
Public opinion: 26% in favour, 53% against (2022 poll).[118]
 Russia
European Union Russia Locator.svg Main article: Russia–European Union relations
Relationship:
Main obstacles: Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule, Eurosceptic government, and occupation of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Proponents: Yabloko, People's Freedom Party, Russia of the Future, Democratic Party of Russia, 5th of December Party, Green Alternative
Opponents: Vladimir Putin, United Russia, Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Public opinion:
 San Marino
European Union San Marino Locator.png Main article: San Marino–European Union relations (Microstates and the European Union)
Relationship: Bilateral treaties, open border, customs union, and euro adoption.
Main obstacles: Small size.[119]
Proponents: United Left,[120] Union for the Republic,[121] Civic 10,[122][123] Party of Socialists and Democrats,[124] Socialist Party,[125] For San Marino[126][127]
Opponents: Sammarinese Christian Democratic Party,[128] Sammarinese Social Right Movement
Public opinion: A referendum in 2013 on applying for EU membership resulted in 50.3% approving, but it failed due to insufficient turnout.[129]
  Switzerland
European Union Switzerland Locator.svg Main article: Switzerland–European Union relations
Relationship: Bilateral treaties allowing participation in the European Single Market, member of the Schengen Area, withdrawn membership application.
Main obstacles: Swiss public opinion and direct democracy.
Proponents: Green Party, Social Democratic Party,[130] Green Liberal Party[131]
Opponents: Swiss People's Party, Evangelical People's Party, Ticino League, Federal Democratic Union, Swiss Party of Labour, Solidarity,[131] Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland[132][133]
Public opinion: A Swiss referendum on restarting EU membership negotiations in 2001 was defeated by 76.8%.[134]
 United Kingdom (Including  Gibraltar)
European Union United Kingdom Locator.svg Main article: United Kingdom–European Union relations
Relationship: Withdrawal agreement, EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, past membership.
Main obstacles: Recent withdrawal and government policy.
Proponents: Liberal Democrats,[135] Volt UK[136], Green Party[137]
Opponents: Conservative Party, Reform UK
Public opinion: Polling on the UK rejoining the EU

Other proposals

Non-sovereign states

Scotland

Despite Scotland voting to stay,[138] the United Kingdom as a whole left the European Union in 2020, leaving potential future membership for Scotland as enlargement from outside of the EU.[139] The Scottish National Party (SNP) which leads Scotland's devolved government supports re-joining the EU should Scotland become independent in the future.[140]

Internal enlargement

Internal enlargement is the process of new member states arising from the break-up of or secession from an existing member state.[141][142][143] There have been and are a number of active separatist movements within member states (for example in Catalonia and Flanders) but there are no clear agreements, treaties or precedents covering the scenario of an existing EU member state breaking into two or more states, both of which wish to remain EU member states. The question is whether one state is a successor and one a new applicant or, alternatively, both are new states which must be admitted to the EU.[144][145]

In some cases, a region desires to leave its state and the EU, namely those regions wishing to join Switzerland. But most, namely the two movements who held referendums during the 2010s, Scotland and Catalonia, see their future as independent states within the EU. This results in great interest on whether, once independent, they would retain EU membership or conversely whether they would have to re-apply. In the later case, since new members must be approved unanimously, any other state which has an interest in blocking their membership to deter similar independence movements could do so.[146][147] Additionally, it is unclear whether the successor state would retain any opt-outs that the parent state was entitled to.

Opinions on membership
  • European Union European Commission
    • Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (2014-2019): "If there were to be a 'yes' vote in favour of Catalan independence, then we will respect that opinion. But Catalonia will not be able to be an EU member state on the day after such a vote."[148] This was repeated in October in an official press release: "We [...] reiterate the legal position held by this Commission as well as by its predecessors. If a referendum were to be organised in line with the Spanish Constitution it would mean that the territory leaving would find itself outside of the European Union."[149]
    • José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission (2004-2014), stated in 2012 in the context of the 2014 referendum for independence in Scotland, that any new independent country would have to apply for membership and negotiate its terms, but that the rest of the original country would not have to re-negotiate its position and would continue its membership.[150][151] In 2014 he said that it would have been 'very difficult' for an independent Scotland to join the EU, 'if not impossible', because of the difficulty of getting the approval of all member states, particularly Spain, which fears a possible secession of Catalonia and has blocked Kosovo's accession to the EU.[152]
    • Joaquín Almunia (Spanish, being at the time an EU Commissioner) in 2013 claimed that Catalonia would have to apply for EU membership in the event of secession from Spain.[153]
  • Spain Government of Spain
    • Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, said in November 2013 that an independent Scotland's entry to the EU would require the consent of all existing members and that an independent Scotland or other regions gaining independence, taken as a reference to Catalonia, would end up outside of the EU.[154][155]
    • Spanish Foreign Minister José García-Margallo, having said in February 2012 that Spain would not veto Scottish accession to the EU, provided Scottish independence had UK agreement (thus making it different from Catalan independence).[156]

Catalonia

On 1 October 2017, the Catalan government held a referendum on independence, which had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain, with potential polling stations being cordoned off by riot police. The subsequent events constituted a political crisis for Catalonia. The EU's position is to keep distance from the crisis while supporting Spain's territorial integrity and constitution.[157][158] While the debate around Scotland's referendum may inform the Catalan crisis, Catalonia is in a distinct situation from Scotland whereby the central government does not recognise the legitimacy of any independence declaration from Catalonia. If Spain does not recognise the independence of a Catalan state, Catalonia cannot separately join the EU and it is still recognised as part of Spain's EU membership.

Corsica

Corsica has a strong and electorally successful nationalist movement, with positions ranging from autonomy to outright independence, the latter option with around 10–15% public support.[159] The independist party Corsica Libera envisions an independent Corsica within the European Union as a union of various European peoples, as well as recommendations for alignment within European directives.[160]

Flanders

There is an active movement towards Flemish independence or union with the Netherlands. The future status of Wallonia and Brussels (the de facto capital of the EU) are unclear as viable political states, perhaps producing a unique situation from Scotland and Catalonia. There are various proposals, both within and outside the independentist movement, for what should happen to Brussels, ranging from staying part of the Belgian rump state, to joining the hypothetical Flemish state, to becoming a separate political entity.[161][162]

Sardinia

Sardinia has a strong and electorally successful nationalist movement, with positions ranging from autonomy to outright independence.

As the Sardinian movement has its origins on the left of the political spectrum[163][164] It is mostly pro-european, with a key focus on environmentalism.

According to a 2012 survey conducted in a joint effort between the University of Cagliari and that of Edinburgh,[165][166][167] 41% of Sardinians would be in favour of independence (with 10% choosing it from both Italy and the European Union, and 31% only from Italy with Sardinia remaining in the EU), whilst another 46% would rather have a larger autonomy within Italy and the EU, including fiscal power; 12% of people would be content to remain part of Italy and the EU with a Regional Council without any fiscal powers, and 1% in Italy and the EU without a Regional Council and fiscal powers.[168][169][170][171][172][173][174] A 2017 poll by the Ixè Institute found that 51% of those questioned identified as Sardinian (as opposed to an Italian average of 15% identifying by their region of origin), rather than Italian (19%), European (11%) and/or citizen of the world (19%).[175][176]

Sardinian nationalists address a number of issues, such as the environmental damage caused by the military forces[177][178][179][180][181][182][183][184][185] (in fact, 60% of such bases in Italy are located on the island),[186] the financial and economic exploitation of the island's resources by the Italian state and mainland industrialists,[187] the lack of any political representation both in Italy and in the European Parliament[188][189] (due to an unbalanced electoral constituency that still remains to this day,[190] Sardinia has not had its own MEP since 1994),[191] the nuclear power and waste (on which a referendum was proposed by a Sardist party,[192] being held in 2011[193]) and the ongoing process of depopulation and Italianization that would destroy the Sardinian indigenous culture.[194]

Wallonia

There is a separatist movement in Wallonia although secession of Flanders from Belgium seems more likely. There is also a movement for a union with France. Although the majority is Francophone, the Walloon movement includes the Allemanophones. There are various proposals, both within and outside the independentist movement, for what should happen to Brussels.[161][162]

Member state expansion

Cyprus

Area shown in orange under control of Northern Cyprus

Officially, the island nation of Cyprus is part of the European Union, under the de jure sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and thus of the European Union, and were entitled to vote in the 2004 European Parliament election (though only a few hundred registered). The EU's acquis communautaire is suspended indefinitely in the northern third of the island, which has remained outside the control of the Republic of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion of 1974. The Greek Cypriot community rejected the Annan Plan for the settlement of the Cyprus dispute in a referendum on 24 April 2004. Had the referendum been in favour of the settlement proposal, the island (excluding the British Sovereign Base Areas) would have joined the European Union as the United Cyprus Republic. The European Union's relations with the Turkish Cypriot Community are handled by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement.[195]

Ireland

The European Council has recognised that following the UK withdrawal from the EU, if Northern Ireland were to be incorporated into a united Ireland it would automatically rejoin the EU under the current Irish membership. A historical precedent for this was the incorporation of East Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany as a single European Communities member state.[196][197]

Romania

A similar scenario has been envisioned with the unification of Moldova and Romania, which would incorporate the current territory of Moldova into Romania and thus into the EU.[198] About 44% of the Moldovans that were polled in 2021 supported such a scenario.[199]

Special territories of member states

  Current enlargement agenda

There are multiple special member state territories, some of them are not fully covered by the EU treaties and apply EU law only partially, if at all. It is possible for a dependency to change its status regarding the EU or some particular treaty or law provision. The territory may change its status from participation to leaving or from being outside to joining.

Danish self-governing territories

Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands, a self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark, is not part of the EU, as explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties.[200] The relations with the EU are governed by a Fisheries Agreement (1977) and a Free Trade Agreement (1991, revised 1998). The main reason for remaining outside the EU is disagreements about the Common Fisheries Policy,[201] which disfavours countries with large fish resources. Also, every member has to pay for the Common Agricultural Policy, which favours countries having much agriculture which the Faroe Islands does not. When Iceland was in membership negotiations around 2010, there was a hope of better conditions for fish-rich countries[citation needed], but to no avail. The Common Fisheries Policy was introduced in 1970 for the very reason of getting access for the first EC members to waters of candidate countries, namely the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark including the Faroe Islands[citation needed].

Nevertheless, there are politicians, mainly in the right-wing Union Party (Sambandsflokkurin), led by their chairman Kaj Leo Johannesen, who would like to see the Faroes as a member of the EU. However, the chairman of the left-wing Republic (Tjóðveldi), Høgni Hoydal, has expressed concerns that if the Faroes were to join the EU as is, they might vanish inside the EU, comparing this with the situation of the Shetland Islands and Åland today, and wants the local government to solve the political situation between the Faroes and Denmark first.[202]

Greenland

Greenland, a self-governing community that is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, entered the EC with Denmark in 1973, because it was not autonomous at that time. After the establishment of Greenland's home rule in 1979 (effective from 1980), it held a second referendum on membership. The result was (mainly because of the Common Fisheries Policy) to leave, so on 1 February 1985, Greenland left the EEC and EURATOM. Its status was changed to that of an Overseas Country.[203][204] Danish nationals residing in Greenland (i.e. all native population) are nonetheless fully European citizens; they are not, however, entitled to vote in European elections.

There has been some speculation as to whether Greenland may consider rejoining the European Union. On 4 January 2007 the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten quoted the former Danish minister for Greenland, Tom Høyem, as saying "I would not be surprised if Greenland again becomes a member of the EU... The EU needs the Arctic window and Greenland cannot alone manage the gigantic Arctic possibilities".[205] Greenland has a lot of natural resources, and Greenland has, especially during the 2000s commodities boom, contracted foreign private companies to exploit some of them, but the cost is considered too high, as Greenland is remote and severely lacks infrastructure which has to be built. After 2013 prices have declined so such efforts have stalled.

The Brexit debate has reignited talk about the EU in Greenland with calls for the island to join the Union again.[206]

Dutch constituent countries and special municipalities

The islands of Aruba and Curaçao, as well as Sint Maarten, are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are special Dutch municipalities. All are Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) under Annex II of the EC treaty.[203] OCTs are considered to be "associated" with the EU and apply some portions of EU law. The islands are opting to become an Outermost Region (OMR) of the EU, a status in which the islands form a part of the European Union, though they benefit from derogations (exceptions) from some EU laws due to their geographical remoteness from mainland Europe. The islands are focusing on gaining the same status as the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands and the French overseas departments.

When Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba were established as Dutch public bodies after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles (which was an OCT) in 2010, their status within the EU was raised. Rather than change their status from an OCT to an outermost region, as their change in status within the Netherlands would imply, it was decided that their status would remain the same for at least five years. After those five years, their status would be reviewed.[needs update]

If it was decided that one or all of the islands wish to integrate more with the EU then the Treaty of Lisbon provides for that following a unanimous decision from the European Council.[207] Former European Commissioner for Enlargement Danuta Hübner has said before the European Parliament that she does not expect many problems to occur with such a status change, as the population of the islands is only a few thousand people.[citation needed]

French overseas departments and territories

The territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion are overseas departments of France and at the same time mono-departmental overseas regions. According to the EC treaty (article 299 2), all of these departments are outermost regions (OMR) of the EU—hence provisions of the EC treaty apply there while derogations are allowed. The status of the Overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin is also defined as OMR by the Treaty of Lisbon. New Caledonia and the overseas collectivities of French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as Wallis and Futuna are Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU.[203]

New Caledonia

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France with its own unique status under the French Constitution, which is distinct from that of overseas departments and collectivities. It is defined as an "overseas country" under the 1998 Nouméa Accord, and enjoys a high degree of self-government.[208] Currently, in regard to the EU, it is one of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT).

As a result of the Nouméa Accord, New Caledonians voted in three consecutive independence referendums in 2018, 2020, and 2021. The referendums were to determine whether the territory would remain a part of the French Republic as a "sui generis collectivity", or whether it would become an independent state. The accords also specify a gradual devolution of powers to the local New Caledonian assembly. The results of all three referendums determined that New Caledonia would remain a part of the French Republic.

Former possibility

The Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 was the first occasion the EU was faced with the potential break-up of a member state, and one where a newly independent state wished to retain its EU membership. While the UK's withdrawal from the EU also took Scotland out of the EU, the debates in the referendum campaign may inform other future scenarios.

The UK Government's legal advice on the issue was that 'Since the [remainder of the UK] would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue',[209] while speculating that 'On the face of it, Scotland would be required to accede to the EU as a new state, which would require negotiations on the terms of its membership ...', but that 'Scotland's position within the EU is likely to be shaped more by any agreements between the parties than by pre-existing principles of EU law.'[210] Without any formal process for handling the break-up of any member state, the European Commission offered, if requested by a member state, to provide an official view on the EU's position on Scottish EU membership in the event of its independence from the UK. The Scottish Government requested that UK Prime Minister David Cameron place this request, but such a request was not made.[211] Nicola Sturgeon, the then Deputy First Minister of Scotland, said that the Scottish Cabinet did not agree an independent Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership.[150]

The referendum campaigns had differing views:

  • Yes Scotland: The "Yes" campaign, led by Blair Jenkins, argued that Scotland would continue as a member state following a Yes vote as Scotland would remain compliant with all EU Principles as outlined in TEU Article 2 and there are no provisions to exclude a state in the existing EU agreements.[212] During the period between a Yes vote and formal independence, the Scottish Government could engage in negotiations, from within the EU, on the terms of their continuing membership in the EU. Several EU heads of state expressed their opinion that this position was reasonable, as did James Crawford, co-author of the UK government's legal advice on the issue.[213] In an interview on BBC Radio, asked if the timescale of 18 months for EU and other treaty organisation was possible, Crawford replied that he felt the timescale was reasonable.[214] However, there was no official comment on this view from the EU Commission. The Scottish Government and the Yes Campaign both declared that continuation of membership in the EU is their preference.
  • Better Together: The "No" campaign, led by Alistair Darling, argued that any vote for independence would have automatically placed Scotland out of the EU as a new state, and Scotland would have had to renegotiate entry.[215]

The United Kingdom as a whole left the European Union in 2020, leaving potential future membership for Scotland as enlargement from outside of the EU.[139]

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External links

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  • Bahhouth, Victor; Ziemnowicz, Christopher (6 March 2018). "Meeting the Global Challenges of Doing Business in the Five Candidate Countries on the Road to Join the European Union". Journal of the Knowledge Economy. 10 (3): 1297–1318. doi:10.1007/s13132-018-0531-3. S2CID 158074120.
  • Dimitrijevic, Vojin; Hartmann, Florence; Jovic, Dejan; Memisevic, Tija (June 2009). Batt, Judy; Obradović, Jelena (eds.). "War crimes, conditionality and EU integration in the Western Balkans". Chaillot Paper. European Union Institute for Security Studies (116). Archived from the original on 23 December 2009.
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