EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

EU Enlargement policy

The EU enlargement policy deals with countries who currently want to become members of the EU. Its aims at extending the EU's zone of peace, stability and prosperity, and providing political, economic and social benefits for these countries and the EU alike. Article 49 of the Treaty on the European Union is the basis for the enlargement process.

Following the 6 founding members — Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands — a further 22 countries have joined the EU:

  • 1973: Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom (1);
  • 1981: Greece;
  • 1986: Spain and Portugal;
  • 1995: Austria, Finland and Sweden;
  • 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic (now Czechia), Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia;
  • 2007: Bulgaria and Romania;
  • 2013: Croatia.

Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey have the status of candidate countries.

Accession negotiations with Iceland started in July 2010 and were then put on hold by the Icelandic government in May 2013. In March 2015, Iceland requested that it no longer be considered a candidate country for EU membership.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo* are potential candidate countries.

(1) Following a referendum in 2016, the UK decided to withdraw from the EU, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union; the transition period ended on 31 December 2020.

* 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.