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Accession process to the EU

Accession process to the EU

Accession of new countries to the European Union (EU) is governed by Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). A country wishing to join the EU:

  • must be a European state;
  • must respect the common values held by EU Member States and undertake to promote them — these values are human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Article 2 of TEU).

A country is granted candidate country status by the European Council following an opinion from the European Commission, drawn up following that country’s application for EU membership. Candidate status does not give the country an automatic right to join the EU.

During its accession process, the candidate country demonstrates that it meets the accession (Copenhagen) criteria and is able to take on the rights and obligations of EU membership.

Depending on the specific situation, the candidate country will need to see through a deep reform process, for instance by improving its infrastructure and administrative capacities with a view to implementing new legislation in line with the body of EU laws and standards (known as the acquis). For the candidate countries and potential candidates to meet the conditions of membership, a strong focus on the fundamental reforms in the rule of law, the economy and functioning of democratic institutions and public administration is required. Throughout the accession process, the Commission scrutinises and accompanies the candidate country’s and potential candidates’ reform process with financial and technical assistance, helping it to prepare for EU membership.