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Candidate Countries

Albania

Albania was granted candidate country status in June 2014, and is progressing toward achieving the political and economic reforms that are necessary for eventual EU membership.

Since 2009, Albania has participated in a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, and in the same year, submitted its application to become an EU Member State.

Status as an EU candidate country is an important political signal for Albania and its citizens, showing that the country is moving to the next phase of the European integration process. From an economic perspective, candidate status encourages foreign investment, and as a result, can lead to job creation.  The European Commission continues to work closely with Albania to support its reforms and prepare it for the next step in the integration process–opening the accession negotiations.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became a candidate country in December 2005 and is well on its way to satisfying the political criteria for EU membership. It is a functioning democracy, with stable institutions that generally guarantee the rule of law and respect for human rights. Additional work is necessary to improve the electoral process, implement judicial and police reform, and strengthen anti-corruption efforts.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has made major strides toward establishing a functioning market economy, and economic reform continues, particularly in the areas of property ownership, the business and investment climate, and labor and financial markets.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia enjoys a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU, including financial and technical assistance.

Iceland

Iceland applied for EU membership in July 2009 and began accession negotiations in July 2010, but negotiations were put on hold by the Icelandic government in May 2013.

Severely impacted by the 2008 financial crisis and economic downturn, Iceland experienced an economic recession following the collapse of its banking system and the devaluation of its national currency. Nevertheless, the country’s economic base remains strong and the prospect of EU membership is expected to have a stabilizing effect on Iceland’s economy.

Iceland has deep democratic roots, a tradition of good governance, high social and environmental standards, and historically close ties with other European countries. It already has a high degree of integration with the EU and is well-positioned to progress quickly with negotiations in certain policy areas, thanks to its long-term membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) and participation in the Schengen area, which allows its citizens to work and travel freely throughout the EU.

Through the EEA, Iceland already participates in the EU’s single market, and a significant number of EU laws apply in Iceland.

Iceland’s accession will strengthen the EU in its dealings with the Arctic region and in areas including renewable energy and climate change.

Montenegro

Since gaining its independence in 2006, Montenegro has made significant progress in building stable democratic institutions; fostering the rule of law, human rights, and respect for and protection of minorities; and establishing a degree of macroeconomic stability. As a result, on December 17, 2010, the European Council granted Montenegro the status of candidate country.

Accession negotiations were opened June 29, 2012.

Serbia

In March 2012, Serbia was granted the status of candidate country, and accession negotiations were launched in January 2014.

Serbia applied for EU membership in December 2009, and already has close ties with the EU. The Union is the country’s main trading partner and visa liberalization for Serbian citizens traveling to the Schengen area entered into force in 2009, making it easier to establish contacts across borders.

Turkey

Turkey stands both as an anchor of stability in one of the most unstable and insecure regions in the world and as a benchmark of democracy for the wider Middle East. Its formal relations with the EU date back to the 1963 Turkish Association Agreement—the Ankara Agreement—which envisioned closer relations through a customs union, closer economic and trade ties, and Turkey’s eventual membership in the EU.

The customs union, which allows most goods to cross the border in both directions without customs restrictions, became reality in 1995, jump-starting bilateral trade.

Turkey attained candidate country status in 1999, and accession negotiations began in late 2005. The country has undertaken notable political and human rights reforms: abolition of the death penalty; increased civilian control of the military; abolition of State Security Courts; recognition of the supremacy of international human rights conventions over domestic law; progress in the fight against torture; and greater gender equality in the constitution and civil code.

Turkey benefits from considerable pre-accession assistance for infrastructure and social improvements. The EU has also introduced €259 million in aid and trade measures designed to encourage the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community and help facilitate the reunification of the island of Cyprus.

In December 2006, the EU decided to delay the opening of certain “chapters” (subject areas) of the accession negotiations with Turkey pending Turkey’s compliance with an “Additional Protocol” to the Ankara Agreement, under which Turkey agreed to open its ports and airports to goods transported from the Republic of Cyprus, an EU Member State. Negotiations cannot be concluded on these chapters without resolution of the outstanding issue related to the Additional Protocol.

Thirteen chapters are currently open in the accession negotiations, including free movement of capital; company law; intellectual property law; information society and media; food safety, veterinary & phytosanitary policy; taxation; statistics; enterprise & industrial policy; trans-European networks; environment; consumer & health protection; and financial control. Negotiations on the most recent chapter, regional policy, were opened in November 2013.

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