These are just the basics of what you need to know about enlargement. If you want to find out more, consult the Europa Commission’s website on Enlargement | FR.

1. Who can join the EU? Candidates for joining the European Union must be states in “Europe.” This, of course, raises the question of where exactly Europe starts and ends. Turkey and Russia are considered by many people European countries, even though most of their physical territory lies within Asia. North African countries such as Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, which were once colonies of European countries, are not considered European. (In fact, one North African country even attempted to apply for European Union membership. Its application was rejected on the basis that it was not a European country.)
2. What are the criteria for joining the EU? The accession criteria are called the Copenhagen Criteria. According to the Copenhagen Criteria, each candidate must:

  • be a stable democracy that respects the rule of law, human rights, and the protection of minorities
  • have a functioning market economy
  • adopt the rules, policies and standards that make up EU law
3. What must the EU do to ensure that it is capable of absorbing the new members? The European Council’s December 2000 Treaty of Nice is an agreement that ensures the EU will be ready to welcome its new members. The Treaty of Nice involves changes to the decision-making process in the EU, such as:

  • new weighting of votes of the member states in the EU’s governing bodies, such as the Council
  • new allocation of seats in the European Parliament
  • and more use of majority voting as opposed to strict unanimity
4. What are the advantages of EU enlargement for its members and for the rest of the world?
  • Enlargement will increase political stability within Europe, rather than erecting new dividing lines
  • Enlargement will increase the size of the single market, making trade rules and procedures easier for third countries
  • Enlargement will reduce economic disparities
5. What are the new candidate countries?
  • The candidate countries are: the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey.