Albania, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey are candidate countries.
Negotiations are held with each candidate country to determine their ability to apply EU legislation (acquis) and examine their possible request for transition periods. In order to conduct the accession negotiations, EU legislation and standards are divided into 35 chapters which are negotiated one by one. DG Environment is assisting the countries particularly in preparing to comply with the environmental component of chapter 27.
An underlying principle of the negotiations is that countries have to fully transpose and implement the EU legislation by the time of accession. Transitional measures can be granted essentially for investment-heavy directives, provided that the measures are limited in time and scope and do not create distortion of competition for the EU single market. These are mainly in the field of waste, water, industrial pollution and air quality. No transitional periods are granted to horizontal legislation (Environmental Impact Assessment, Access to information etc.), nature legislation or framework legislation (waste framework legislation, water framework legislation etc.). Transition periods are only granted on the basis of detailed justification of the needs, and on realistic implementation plans specifying the steps that will be taken to ensure full compliance with the target legislation by the end of the transition period.
Albania applied for the EU membership in April 2009 and received the candidate status in June 2014. Progress in the accession process will depend on achievements in few key areas such as fight against corruption and organised crime, reform of judicial system and constructive and sustainable political dialogue between government and opposition.
The Republic of North Macedonia was declared a candidate country in December 2005. Opening of negotiations will depend on the progress made in aligning with the EU acquis. The Commission recommended that negotiations for accession to the European Union should be opened. However, the on-going name dispute with Greece is hampering further progress.
Montenegro submitted the application for EU membership in December 2008. The candidate status was granted on 17 December 2010. The opening of accession negotiations took place in June 2012. Following the screening process, Montenegro needs to fulfil an opening benchmark before accession negotiations for Chapter 27 -Environment can be opened.
Serbia applied for the candidate country status in December 2009. The candidate country status was granted in March 2012. On 21 January 2014, the first Intergovernmental Conference took place, signaling the formal start of Serbia's accession negotiations. The screening exercise for Chapter 27 – Environment took place in 2014 and the screening report has been adopted by the Council in December 2016 without an opening benchmark. Serbia has been invited by the Presidency in December 2016 to submit its negotiating position for Chapter 27.
Turkey was declared a candidate country in December 1999. Negotiation talks were opened on 3 October 2005 and Chapter 27 was open for negotiations on 21 December 2009. Technical discussions are on-going in areas such as water, waste, nature protection or horizontal legislation.
These are countries/entities which have a clear prospect of joining the EU in the future but have not yet been granted candidate country status.
Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina were opened in September 2005 and on 16 June 2008, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the European Union signed the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. The SAA entered into force in June 2015. The country has submitted in February 2016 its application to join the EU. In September 2016, the Council invited the Commission to present an Opinion on BiH application. The Opinion is currently under preparation.
UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999) placed Kosovo under the transitional administration of the United Nations. Kosovo's authorities declared independence on 17 February 2008. The European Union took note of the declaration of independence, left to the Member States to decide on the recognition and asked the Commission to enhance the cooperation with Kosovo. The Stabilization and Association Agreement between EU and Kosovo has been initiated in July 2014 and entered into force in April 2016.