Enlargement countries RSS
Any European country which respects the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law, may apply to become a member of the Union.
Applying for EU membership
Applying for EU membership is the start of a long and rigorous process.
Submitting an application
The official starting point is when a country submits an application, though this invariably arises out of an already strong bilateral relationship with the EU.
A valid application triggers a sequence of EU evaluation procedures that may - or may not - result in a country eventually being invited to become a member.
The application from a country wishing to join is submitted to the Council.
The Council decision
The Commission provides a formal opinion on the applicant country, and the Council decides whether to accept the application.
Once the Council unanimously agrees a negotiating mandate, negotiations may be formally opened between the candidate and all EU countries.
However, this is not automatic. The applicant country must meet a core set of criteria before negotiations start.
The speed with which each country advances depends solely on its own progress towards our common goals.
The so-called ' Copenhagen criteria ', set out in December 1993 by the European Council in Copenhagen, require a candidate country to have:
- stable institutions that guarantee democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
- a functioning market economy, as well as the ability to cope with the pressure of competition and the market forces at work inside the Union;
- the ability to assume the obligations of membership, in particular adherence to the objectives of political, economic and monetary union.