Albania, Moldova, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine 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.) and nature legislation. 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. In April 2018, the Commission issued an unconditional recommendation to open accession negotiations. The Council set out the path towards opening accession negotiations in June 2019, depending on progress made in key areas such as the judiciary, fight against corruption and organised crime, intelligence services and public administration. In March 2020 the members of the European Council endorsed the General Affairs Council’s decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and in July 2020 the draft negotiating framework were presented to the Member States.
Moldova was declared a candidate country in June 2022. Find out more about Moldova’s application and EU-Moldova relations.
The Republic of North Macedonia was declared a candidate country in December 2005. Since October 2009, the Commission has continuously recommended to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia. In 2015 and 2016, the recommendation was made conditional on the continued implementation of the Pržino agreement and substantial progress in the implementation of the ‘Urgent Reform Priorities’. In March 2020, the General Affairs Council decided to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia. The decision was endorsed by members of the European Council. In July 2020 the draft negotiating framework was presented to the Member States.
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. The accession negotiations for Chapter 27 - Environment were opened on 10 December 2018.
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, signalling 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. The Presidency invited Serbia in December 2016 to submit its negotiating position for Chapter 27, which Serbia did in February 2020.
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.
Ukraine was declared a candidate country in June 2022. Find out more about Ukraine’s application and EU-Ukraine relations.
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 Commission adopted its Opinion (Avis) on the EU membership application of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 29 May 2019.
In 2008 the EU repeated its willingness to assist the economic and political development of Kosovo* through a clear European perspective. The Stabilization and Association Agreement between EU and Kosovo has been initiated in July 2014 and entered into force in April 2016.
On 3 March 2022, Georgia presented its applications for EU membership. Based on the Commission’s opinion on the country’s application for EU membership, Georgia was given a European perspective on 23 June 2022 by unanimous agreement between the leaders of all 27 EU Member States. Candidate status will be granted only once Georgia addresses some key priorities. Find out more about Georgia’s application and EU-Georgia relations.