This is the process to enter the European Union: deadlines, steps and conditions

The 27 member countries of the EU have agreed this Monday to ask the European Commission for a opinion on the request for entry of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova into the European bloc after the petitions sent by the three former Soviet republics last week in the midst of the crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The matter will be discussed at the highest level by the leaders of the community bloc this Thursday and Friday at an informal summit in Versailles, France. Although the own consideration as a candidate country to enter the EU takes between 15 and 18 months from the time it is requested until it is studied by the community partners, several European countries have asked to speed up the procedures and that it be carried out already, one week after your request.

The Copenhagen Criteria, keys to being a candidate

But to be a possible member of the EU, applicants must be European in the geopolitical sense, respect human dignity and human rights, and also have to meet a series of conditions established in the 1993 Copenhagen Criteria.

As established in this agreement, the countries that wish to join must have stable institutions that guarantee democracy and the rule of law”, a “market economy that works” that can stand up to “EU market forces”, and have the ability to effectively enforce the EU membership obligations.

If the Commission unanimously assesses that the three applicant countries meet these three requirements, they will be considered as official candidates to enter the EU and a pre-accession stage will open, during which Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova could benefit from assistance provided by the EU, while they negotiate accession agreements.

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The negotiations take place in conferences between the Community partners and the candidate country. They set the conditions and schedules for the adoption, application and execution by the applicant country to adopt the current European standards.

The rules are divided into 35 chapters that are discussed independently. These include transport, energy, environment or monetary policy. When the negotiations and reforms are completed, the country can join the EU.

How long does it take to enter the EU once you are a candidate?

Once negotiations are opened and a pre-accession stage is entered there is no set period of time to formally enter the EU, and it is extended more or less depending on how the negotiations that are signed in the Accession Treaty develop.

If the Commission finally decides to facilitate the process to consider them applicants, they will speed up part of the journey, but the Accession Treaty usually takes several years from that moment.

The last country to join the EU was Croatia in 2013 after almost a decade as a candidate until it signed its accession.

How many countries are candidates?

At the moment, there are five countries that are considered as candidates to enter the EU: Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Turkey. In addition, the EU has recognized Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential candidates.

On 2009, Albania submitted its application to join the EU, as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have now done. On 2014 the EU considered them candidatesbut formal accession negotiations did not finally open until 2019. In March 2022 are still not members.

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Although in the coming weeks the Commission decides to consider the three former Soviet republics as candidates, they still have a long way to go before a possible entry into the EU becomes effective.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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