EU Policies

EU enlargement

Today’s European Union, with its 28 Member States and a population of approx. 500 million, is the result of an integration and enlargement process of more than half a century, which is continuously evolving.

The EU Member States agreed that the perspective of joining the Union should also be enjoyed by the Western Balkans – Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo (under UN Security Council Resolution 1244) –, as well as by Turkey and Iceland. Accession will be possible only provided that all the necessary criteria are met.

Croatia became the 28th Member State of the EU on 1 July 2013. Accession talks began on 3 October 2005 and were completed on 30 June 2011. Croatia’s Accession Treaty to the EU was signed in Brussels on 9 December 2011.

Currently, Turkey, the Republic of MacedoniaIcelandMontenegro and Serbia are  candidate states.

Accession negotiations with Turkey started on 3 October 2005. The Republic of Macedonia became a candidate country in December 2005, but accession talks have not started yet. The European Council of 17 June 2010 decided on starting accession negotiations with Iceland. Montenegro became a candidate state in December 2010, while the accession negotiations were opened on 29 June 2012. Serbia obtained candidate status on 2 March 2012. 

The other countries in the Western Balkans are considered potential candidates, which can become EU Member States as soon as they are prepared.

Romania’s position: Romania supports an “open-doors” policy towards the states that show they have the will and the capacity to fulfil the criteria required for joining the EU.   

The process of stabilization and association is a process established by the EU with all countries in the Western Balkans, aimed at helping them to gradually get closer to the Union. By virtue of this process, the respective countries are already enjoying free access to the EU’s single market for nearly all exports, as well as financial support from the EU for their efforts to implement the reforms. Central to this process is the conclusion of a stabilization and association agreement, a contractual relationship that establishes reciprocal rights and obligations. Stabilization and association agreements focus on observance of the basic democratic principles and of the central elements of the European single market.

The enlargement process

Candidate countries must prove they will be able to fully assume the role of Members of the Union.  To this end, they must obtain citizens’ support and meet strict European standards and rules of a political, legal and technical nature.  

Countries wishing to join the EU can cover the various stages of the integration process only when all conditions for each stage have been met. The complex procedures for being admitted into the EU guarantee that the new Member States only join the Union when they fulfil all requirements and when all EU institutions, the governments of Member States and their own governments have actively expressed their consent. The prospect of integration therefore serves as an incentive to promote reforms. The EU’s enlargement policy guarantees that this process is thoroughly managed so that accession can be beneficial to both parties involved, the EU and the acceding countries.

EU enlargement milestones

In 1951, six countries – Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – founded the European Coal and Steel Community and then, in 1957, the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

  • Six successive waves of enlargement followed:

1973 – Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom

1981 – Greece

1986 – Spain and Portugal

1995 – Austria, Finland and Sweden

2004 – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. It was a historic enlargement, a reunification of Europe after decades of separation. On 1 January 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, this historic process was completed.

2013 – Croatia