Economic criteria for joining the EU

The criteria for countries that want to join the European Union are laid out in the Copenhagen criteria, agreed at the June 1993 European Council in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The economic criteria to be eligible to join the EU are:

  • the existence of a functioning market economy
  • the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union

To assess whether countries meet the economic criteria the European Commission monitors the following sub-criteria.

A functioning market economy requires

  • high quality of economic governance
  • macroeconomic stability (including adequate price stability as well as sustainable public finances and external accounts)
  • proper functioning of the goods and services market (including business environment, state influence on product markets, and privatisation and restructuring)
  • proper functioning of the financial market (including financial stability and access to finance)
  • proper functioning of the labour market

Being competitive in the EU requires

  • a sufficient amount of human capital, education, research, innovation, and future developments in this field
  • a sufficient amount and quality of physical capital and infrastructure
  • changes in the sector and enterprise structure in the economy, including the role of SMEs
  • a sufficient degree and pace of economic integration with the Union, and price competitiveness

Monitoring and assessment

The first full assessment of the state of an EU candidate country’s compliance with the Copenhagen criteria is provided by the European Commission in its opinion on a country's application for membership.

Monitoring the progress of EU candidate countries towards economic accession criteria is then assessed each year by the Commission in an annual progress report.

The Commission also closely monitors the medium-term economic and fiscal outlook in each candidate country through an annual economic and fiscal surveillance procedure. The procedure is designed to prepare the country for its eventual participation in the EU’s economic and monetary union.

Read more

Policies in the field of EU enlargement

EU Candidate and Potential Candidate Countries' Economic Quarterly (within technical papers publication series)

European Commission economic forecasts