Any country seeking membership of the European Union (EU) must conform to the conditions set out by Article 49 and the principles laid down in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union. Relevant criteria were established by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and strengthened by the Madrid European Council in 1995 (Copenhagen criteria).
At the highest level, the EU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment for eventual EU membership of the Western Balkan countries, Iceland and Turkey, provided they fulfill the accession criteria.
As from 1 July 2013, the European Union has successfully completed its sixth enlargement, welcoming Croatia. The Union has grown from 6 to 28 Members. Following the Council's decisions, negotiations have started with Turkey, Iceland and Montenegro, while the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia have been recognised as candidate countries. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo * (This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence') are potential candidates.
As regards Turkey, Iceland and Montenegro, the first step of the negotiation process - the so-called screening - has been completed. Formal negotiations have been officially opened with Iceland in the customs and taxation area since 2012. With regard to Turkey, in December 2006 the European Council decided to suspend negotiations in 8 areas, among which Customs Union, until Turkey agrees to apply the Additional Protocol of the Ankara Association Agreement to Cyprus. Negotiations are continuing in the remaining areas, including Taxation.
The European Commission's Monitoring Report on Croatia's accession preparations , dated 26 March 2013, is available.
An information document of 28 March 2013 on the customs implications of Croatia's EU accession on 1 July 2013 has also been made public.
Background information including a list of frequently asked questions can be found on the Commission's Directorate General Enlargement website. On that site you will also find references to key documents, the conditions for accession, explanations on the enlargement processand on the Treaty of Accession. The Treaty of Accession of Croatia, signed on 9 December 2011, is published on the Council Website (see documents 14409/11) .
Information on external trade, including enlargement countries, can be found on the trade export helpdesk
More detailed information concerning the rules of origin can be found on this website with the following links:
Western Balkan countries
The Stabilisation and Association Agreements (SAA) with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro entered into force respectively on 1.4.2004, 1.4.2009 and 01.05.2010. SAA's have been signed with Serbia and with Bosnia and Herzegovina and are awaiting ratification. In the meantime Interim Agreements covering trade matters are in force.
In the framework of the institutional dialogue in place and in view of the implementation of the Agreements, Tax and Customs matters are regularly discussed with the partner countries. Legislative and other activities are monitored by the Commission and results are detailed in an annual "progress report".
Enlargement countries are supported by the Instrument of Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) in pursuing their reform process. European funding is aimed mainly at strengthening institutions, transposing the EU acquis, improving socio-economic conditions, strengthening civil society, protecting the environment, fostering sustainable development and supporting the modernization of the tax and customs administrations.
Turkey, Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia joined both Customs and Fiscalis 2013 programmes. Montenegro and Albania joined the Customs 2013 programme.
Customs cooperation and modernisation of the customs administrations contribute to the stability of the South-East European region and facilitate economic cooperation. They also promote trade security and the fight against illicit trafficking of goods and people. Several high level seminars have been held in Thessaloniki, Naples and Brdo. The most recent high level seminar (2013) was hosted by Croatia and resulted in the Dubrovnik Declaration.