EUROPE ABC – Who can join the EU?

Three key accession criteria to become an EU member

The Treaty on the European Union states that any European country may apply for membership if it respects the democratic values of the EU and is committed to promoting them.

The first step though is to meet the key criteria for accession. These criteria are referred to as Copenhagen Criteria. These criteria are the conditions that a candidate country must meet before it can become a member of the European Union.

If a country wish to join the European Union, it needs to meet political, economic and legislative criteria and have:

-Stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;

-A functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU;

-The ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, complying with all the EU’s standards and rules and including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

These three criteria must be met before accession and cannot be passed on or edited subsequently. The aim is to ensure that economically and politically unstable countries do not become burdensome for the Member States and that a common system of values and standards is established within the Union.

Conditions for membership

The EU runs a comprehensive approval procedure that ensure new candidates are admitted only when they can demonstrate they will be able to play their part fully as members. Nevertheless, there are some examples in the history of the European Union, where candidates become EU members without completely fulfilling these entry requirements. This has affected the EU enlargement process and questioned European identity.

EU scales of justice

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