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EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Glossary of summaries

Candidate countries

A country is granted candidate country status by the European Council on the basis of 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. The Commission scrutinises its application in the light of the accession criteria (Copenhagen criteria), and the accession process only starts with a unanimous decision from the European Council to open negotiations.

Depending on their circumstances, candidate countries may be required to institute a reform process in order to bring their legislation into line with the existing body of EU laws and standards (known as the acquis) and to improve their infrastructure and administration. During the accession process, the candidate receives financial and technical assistance to help it prepare for EU membership.

The Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA II) was adopted in late 2013 for the 2014-2020 period.