The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The EU has many perks, such as free trade and the free movement of people, which make it an attractive destination for countries looking to join.
There are a number of countries that have applied to be members of the EU but have not yet been accepted. These countries are known as candidate countries. The EU has a strict set of criteria that candidates must meet in order to be accepted, and the process can take many years.
The list of candidate countries currently includes Albania (2009), Montenegro (2008), North Macedonia (2004), Serbia (2009), Turkey (1987), Moldova (2022), and Turkey (2022).
Albania applied to join the EU in 2009 and is currently in the process of meeting the criteria for membership. The country has made some progress on reforms but still needs to make improvements in a number of areas, including the rule of law, human rights, and corruption.
Montenegro is a country that enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth after it gained independence from Serbia in 2006. The country applied to join the EU in 2008 and is currently making progress on meeting the criteria for membership. It has agreed to a number of reforms, including the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, which is a prerequisite for membership.
North Macedonia applied to join the EU in 2004 and is making progress in meeting the necessary criteria. The country has made significant reforms, including changing its name from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in order to settle a long-running dispute with Greece. There is, however, an issue with Bulgaria, which has veto-ed North Macedonia’s progress due to a dispute over history. This has been lifted on June 2022 when the parliament of Bulgaria voted to support North Macedonia’s bid to join the EU.
Serbia is a country that emerged from the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. The country applied to join the EU in 2009, but its accession process has been slow due to a number of issues, including Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. In 2013, the EU and Serbia reached an agreement that allowed for the start of negotiations on membership, but these have been progressing slowly.
Turkey is a country that has a long history of being associated with Europe. It applied to join the EU in 1987, but its accession process has been slow due to a number of issues, including human rights and the role of Islam in society. In addition, recent events, such as the 2016 coup attempt and the government’s crackdown on dissent, have further complicated Turkey’s relationship with the EU.
Moldova is a country that is located between Romania and Ukraine. It applied to join the EU in 2022 shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which made Moldova’s pro-EU government nervous about the country’s security. Along with Ukraine, Moldova has received candidate status and is working on meeting the criteria for membership.
Ukraine is a country that emerged from the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. With Russia’s invasion of the country in February 2022, Ukraine’s pro-EU government became even more determined to join the EU as a way of ensuring the country’s security. Both Ukraine and Moldova have secured candidate status and are working on meeting the criteria for membership.
How Exactly Do Countries Become Members of the EU?
Countries that want to join the EU have to go through a process called accession. This process has 3 main stages: Candidacy, Negotiation, and Accession.
Candidacy: The first step is for the country to submit an application to the European Council, which is then reviewed by the Commission. If the Commission believes that the country meets the necessary criteria, it will recommend that the Council allows the country to start negotiations.
Negotiation: The second stage is negotiation, during which the country works with the EU to identify any areas where they need to make changes in order to meet EU standards. This process can take several years, and once negotiations are complete, the country must ratify the agreement in its own national Parliament.
Accession: The final stage is accession, or joining the EU. This can happen once the country has made all the necessary changes and they have been approved by the European Parliament.
These three steps can take many years, and not all countries that start the process end up becoming members. For example, Turkey applied to join the EU in 1987 but has yet to become a member. The membership process is long and complicated, but with the countries’ commitment, they might one day be a part of the European Union.
So, what are these criteria that countries must meet?
The European Union has strict criteria that candidates must meet in order to be accepted. These criteria are known as the Copenhagen criteria and were established at the 1993 Copenhagen Summit. The criteria are as follows:
- Political criteria: The country must have a stable democracy that respects human rights and the rule of law
- Economic criteria: The country must have a functioning market economy
- The country must also be willing and able to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the EU’s aims of promoting peace, democracy, and human rights
If a country meets all of these criteria, it will be allowed to start the process of accession. However, it should be noted that meeting the criteria is only the first step in a long and complex process.
When Will These Countries Join the EU?
There is no set timeline for when candidate countries will join the EU. The process can take many years, and in some cases, decades. Turkey, for example, first applied to join the EU in 1987 and they are still waiting to be accepted.
Albania and Montenegro are the only two candidate countries that have started the process of accession, and they are currently in the negotiation stage. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia are also working towards membership, but they have not yet started negotiations.
It is difficult to say when these countries will join the EU, as the process is long and complex. However, it is clear that they are all, except Turkey, who first applied in 1987, are making progress toward their goal of membership.
How Long Does It Take for a Country to Join the EU?
Generally, it takes about 10 years for a country to go from candidate status to full membership. This timeline can vary depending on the country and the speed at which they are able to make the necessary changes.
For example, Croatia applied for membership in 2003 and became a member in 2013. Romania and Bulgaria, on the other hand, took slightly longer, as they applied in 1995 and became members in 2007.
Malta and Cyprus are two countries that really took their time in joining the EU. They both applied in 1990, but it wasn’t until 2004 that they finally became members.
The negotiating process is the step that takes the most time, as it can take around 5 years. About half of this time is spent on preparation, and the other half is spent negotiating with the EU.
It is worth noting that not all countries that start the process of accession end up joining the EU. Turkey, for example, has effectively stalled and with recent events, it is unlikely that it will be joining the EU any time soon.
What About EU Exits?
It is worth mentioning that as well as new countries joining the EU, there have also been countries that have left. The most notable example of this is the United Kingdom, which voted to leave the EU in 2016 and officially left in 2020.
It is unclear at this stage what the long-term effects of Brexit will be, but it is certainly a blow to the EU. The UK was one of the largest and most influential member states, and their departure left a big hole in the Union.
However, the UK is not the only country to have left the EU. Greenland, an autonomous territory of Denmark, voted to leave in 1982 and officially left in 1985.
It is also worth noting that there are countries that have tried to leave the EU but have been unsuccessful. The most notable example of this is Greece, which came close to leaving in 2015 but was ultimately bailed out by the EU.
The benefits that come with being a member of the European Union are clear. Countries that are members of the EU have access to the world’s largest market, which consists of over 500 million consumers. They also enjoy increased trade and investment, as well as financial stability.
That’s why so many countries are eager to join the EU. The process may be long and complicated, but it’s worth it in the end. The countries listed above are all working towards membership, and they could one day be a part of the world’s largest economic and political union.