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Accession negotiations must be concluded before a new Member State can join the European Union.
A Negotiating Framework provides guidelines for the negotiations, which take place via a bilateral Intergovernmental Conference (EU/candidate country).
The first phase entails rigorous screening of the candidate country's legislation; negotiations then proceed methodically through the range of EU legislation, which the candidate country must adopt, implement and enforce. Negotiations also extend to other rights and obligations that all Member States must accept - these are known as the Community acquis.
The political and economic reforms carried out by the candidate country are monitored and assessed regularly, and the pace of negotiations is determined by the results. Only when all parties are satisfied does the process conclude with the signing and ratification of an Accession Treaty.
On 3 October 2005 the European Union opened accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey.