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Since the accession of Croatia on 1 July 2013, the European Union has comprised 28 Member States. Enlargement refers to the waves of new members joining the EU. Twenty-two countries have so far joined the six founding members of the European Communities (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands):

• 1973: Denmark, Ireland, United Kingdom

• 1981: Greece

• 1986: Portugal, Spain

• 1995: Austria, Finland, Sweden

• 2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia

• 2007: Bulgaria, Romania

• 2013: Croatia

Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey have the status of candidate countries. Accession negotiations with Turkey, Montenegro, and Serbia are ongoing while negotiations with Iceland are currently on hold. The other countries of the Western Balkans are potential candidate countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*).

During the period 2014-2020, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) represents the EU's financial instrument for the pre-accession process. Assistance is provided on the basis of Accession Partnerships with the candidate countries and European Partnerships with the potential candidate countries.

* 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.