On July 1st 2013 Croatia officially became the 28th Member State of the European Union, following the 27 Member States’ ratification of the Accession Act signed in December 2011 and negotiations that were launched in 2005.

Within the framework of the European enlargement process, this achievement is added to the accession on May 1st 2004 of ten new Member States (Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Slovenia and Hungary), the most extensive enlargement in the Union’s history in terms of breadth and diversity.

Romania and Bulgaria gained membership in January 2007, and negotiations were launched on 3 October 2005 for the accession of Croatia and Turkey, candidates respectively since June 2004 and December 1999.

On 27 July 2010 negotiations also began for Iceland’s accession, based on the Commission’s positive opinion on that country’s bid for accession (26 July 2009) and on a June 2010 European Council decision.

In light of progress at the level of normalising relations between Belgrade and Pristina, the European Council decided in June 2013 to launched accession negotiations with Serbia by January 2014 and authorized the opening of negotiations on an Association and Stabilisation Agreement with Kosovo.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was granted Candidate Country status in December 2005, and in 2009 the Commission presented a recommendation in favour of launching accession negotiations; the European Council has not yet issued its decision on the matter.

Montenegro submitted its application in December 2008 and obtained Candidate Country status in December 2010.

The European Council held in Fiera in 2000 acknowledged candidate potential to all the other Western Balkans countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo – and that prospect was reiterated and reinforced by the European Council held in Thessaloniki in 2003. Albania submitted its accession bid on 28 April 2009, followed by Serbia on 21 December 2009.

To become a fully entitled member of the European Union, a State must first comply with the political and economic conditions known as the Copenhagen Criteria established by the European Council in December 1993, according to which each candidate must:

  • have achieved institutional stability such that ensures democracy, rule of law and minority rights;
  • have a functioning market economy and be able to sustain the pressure of competition and market forces within the Union;
  • fulfil accession obligations and adopt the common rules, laws and policies that make up the body of EU legislation.

The EU helps these countries in their reception of the community acquis and offers financial assistance in order to accelerate their adaptation to EU standards by means of the Pre-Accession Instrument.

Latest update: 03/07/2013