The Process of EU Enlargement

The European Union is currently made up of 27 Member States, while there is an ongoing process for its future enlargement.

At the moment several countries are candidate countries and are waiting to join the EU, while others are potential candidates. 

Enlargement countries

  • Candidate countries: Montenegro; North Macedonia; Albania; Serbia and Turkey.
  • Potential candidates: Bosnia and Herzegovina; Kosovo*.

Enlargement policy

This Commission has introduced a strengthened approach to its assessments in the annual reports. In addition to reporting on progress, much more emphasis is put on the state of play in the countries and where they stand in terms of preparedness for taking on the obligations of membership. At the same time, the reports provide even clearer guidance for what the countries are expected to do in both the short and long term. Harmonised assessment scales are used to assess both the state of play and the level of progress, increasing comparability between the countries.


On the economy, the Commission will consider refining the sub-criteria and parameters for the assessment of the two Copenhagen economic criteria (these require the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressures and market forces within the Union), also taking into account the different challenges and specificities of the current enlargement countries compared to those of the fifth enlargement when the economic sub-criteria were conceived.

Among other things, the annual reports include a statistical annex with key statistical data on the countries. Statistics is one of the areas assessed by the Commission.

Pre-accession financial assistance

The EU provides financial assistance to these countries to help in the joining process. This pre-accession financial assistance is channelled through the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA).


A new regulation for IPA was adopted for the period 2014-2020, Regulation (EU) no. 231/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II).

The role of Eurostat

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, follows the progress of candidate countries and potential candidates in complying with the EU acquis (the body of EU law) in the field of statistics and collects data from these countries. Eurostat provides technical assistance and support to the national statistical institutes of candidate countries and potential candidates, to enable them to produce and disseminate harmonised and good quality data according to European  standards.


The main objectives for aligning candidate countries and potential candidates with the EU acquis in statistics are presented in the "Strategy for Statistical Cooperation with the Enlargement countries 2014 -2020".

The strategy established the following objectives:

  • reaching and maintaining compliance with the EU acquis in statistics,
  • making statistics a better tool for policy purposes,
  • integrating the national statistical institutes (NSIs) into the European Statistical System,
  • implementing the European Statistics Code of Practice,
  • strengthening the management capacity of the NSIs.

The Policy Group for statistical cooperation (PGSC) and the Management Group for statistical cooperation (MGSC) deal with the planning, monitoring and evaluation of cooperation programmes in statistics.

Enlargement countries: Links to National statistical institutes


North Macedonia




Bosnia and Herzegovina


* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence