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EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Glossary of summaries

EU-28 and candidate countries

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 needs to satisfy 2 conditions:

  • it must be a European state;
  • it must respect the common values held by EU countries and undertake to promote them. These values are human dignity, liberty, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including those of minorities (Article 2 of TEU).

Having met the accession (Copenhagen) criteria, a candidate country has to demonstrate, in the course of the negotiation period, that it is able to take on the rights and obligations of EU membership. Once negotiations are successfully completed on all the 35 chapters of the EU's 'acquis', the Council must give its unanimous approval and Parliament its consent in order for an accession treaty to be signed.

This treaty is then signed by the candidate country with the individual EU countries, which then ratify it in accordance with their individual constitutional rules.