A more stable and prosperous Europe
The enlargement process has helped change unstable countries with weak democratic institutions, minority problems and border issues into stable and peaceful democracies. This benefits the safety and security of the EU
In a global world, security is not just a question of avoiding war. Today, security also includes handling issues like the fight against terrorism, international crime and environmental problems. All these issues are cross-border concerns and affect all of Europe. This is why they are best solved in cooperation among the European states.
The EU also benefits economically from enlargement, notably from an increased Single Market, which brings an increase in bilateral trade as well as cross-border investments.
During the last Danish Presidency of the Council, the EU Member States concluded negotiations with ten Central and Eastern European states and on 1 May 2004 the EU was enlarged with Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary.
A few years later, on 1 January 2007, Bulgaria and Romania also became members of the EU. Yet, the enlargement of the EU does not stop here, and other countries are now negotiating future membership of the EU.
In October 2005, negotiations concerning accession for Croatia and Turkey were opened, and negotiations concerning accession for Iceland commenced in July 2010.
Croatia will be the 28th Member State of the EU as negotiations were completed in June 2011. The countries of the Western Balkans have also begun approaching the EU through a number of processes, which have EU membership as the final goal.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been a candidate country since December 2005 and in December 2010 Montenegro was recognised as a candidate country.
Conditions for EU membership
The EU requires that future Member States fulfil norms for democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and that they have a functioning market economy. These requirements are formulated in the “Copenhagen criteria”, which were established by the European Council in Copenhagen in June 1993:
Stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.
The existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.
The ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union (the “Acquis Communautaire” that covers the 35 chapters of the EU negations on enlargement).
The EU assists the candidate countries in implementing EU legislation and offers financial assistance in order to improve infrastructure and the economy.
In addition to the Copenhagen criteria, the EU must be able to integrate new members. In the EU jargon this is referred to as the EU’s “capacity of absorption”, which relates to three specific measurements:
The EU must ensure that its institutions and decision-making processes remain effective and accountable.
As it enlarges, the EU must be able to continue to develop and implement common policies in all areas.
The EU must be able to continue to finance its policies in a sustainable manner.