Enlargement of the European Union is the process of expanding the European Union (EU) through the accession of new member states. This process began with the Inner Six, who founded the European Coal and Steel Community (the EU's predecessor) in 1952. Since then, the EU's membership has grown to twenty-seven with the most recent expansion to Bulgaria and Romania in 2007.
Currently, accession negotiations are under way with several states. The process of enlargement is sometimes referred to as European integration. However, this term is also used to refer to the intensification of co-operation between EU member states as national governments allow for the gradual harmonisation of national laws.
To join the European Union, a state needs to fulfil economic and political conditions called the Copenhagen criteria (after the Copenhagen summit in June 1993), which require a stable democratic government that respects the rule of law, and its corresponding freedoms and institutions. According to the Maastricht Treaty, each current member state and the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement.
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Today the accession process follows a series of formal steps, from a pre-accession agreement to the ratification of the final accession treaty. These steps are primarily presided over by the European Commission (DG Enlargement), but the actual negotiations are technically conducted between the Union's Member States and the candidate country.
Any European country could in theory apply to join the EU, at which point the Council would consult with the Commission and the European Parliament on beginning accession negotiations. The council would either accept or reject the recommendation unanimously. To receive a positive recommendation, the country must meet the following criteria:
To gain membership it must:
In December 1995, the Madrid European Council revised the membership criteria to include conditions for member country integration through the appropriate adjustment of its administrative structures: since it is important that European Community legislation be reflected in national legislation, it is critical that the revised national legislation be implemented effectively through appropriate administrative and judicial structures.
Before a country applies for membership it typically signs an association agreement to help prepare the country for candidacy and eventual membership. Most countries do not meet the criteria to even begin negotiations before they apply, so they need many years to prepare for the process. An association agreement helps prepare for this first step.
When a country formally applies for membership, the Council asks the Commission to prepare an opinion on the country's readiness to begin negotiations. The Council can then either accept or reject the Commission's opinion (The Council has only once rejected the Commission's opinion when the latter advised against opening negotiations with Greece).
If the Council agrees to open negotiations the screening process then begins. The Commission and candidate country examine its laws and those of the EU and determine what differences exist. The Council then recommends opening negotiations on "chapters" of law that it feels there is sufficient common ground to have constructive negotiations. Negotiations are typically a matter of the member state convincing the EU that its laws and administrative capacity are sufficient to execute European law, which can be implemented as seen fit by the member states. Often this will involve time-lines before the Acquis Communautaire (European regulations, directives & standards) has to be fully implemented.
A chapter is said to be closed when both sides have agreed it has been implemented sufficiently, however it can still be re-opened if the Commission feels that the candidate has fallen out of compliance.
To assess progress achieved by countries in preparing for accession to the European Union, the European Commission submits regular reports (yearly) to the European Council. These serve as a basis for the Council to make decisions on negotiations or their extension to other candidates.
Once the negotiations are complete a treaty of accession will be signed, which must then be ratified by all of the member states of the Union, as well as the institutions of the Union, and the candidate country. Once this has been completed it will join the Union on the date specified in the treaty.
The entire process, from application for membership to membership has typically taken about a decade, although some countries, notably Sweden, Finland, and Austria have been faster, taking only a few years. The process from application for association agreement through accession has taken far longer, as much as several decades (Turkey for example first applied for association in the 1950s and has yet to conclude accession negotiations).
Enlargement has been one of the EU's most successful foreign policies, yet has equally suffered from considerable opposition from the start. French President Charles de Gaulle opposed British membership fearing US influence. His successor Francois Mitterrand opposed Greek, Spanish and Portuguese membership fearing they were not ready and it would water the community down to a free trade area.
The reasoning for the first member states to apply, and for them to be accepted, were primarily economic while the second enlargement was more political. The southern Mediterranean countries had just emerged from dictatorships and wanted to secure their democratic systems through the EEC, while the EEC wanted to ensure the same thing and that their southern neighbours were stable and aligned to NATO. These two principle forces, economic gain and political security, have been behind enlargements since however, with the recent large enlargements in 2004, public opinion in Europe has turned against further expansion.
It has also been acknowledged that enlargement has its limits, the EU cannot expand endlessly. Commission President Romano Prodi favoured granting states "everything but institutions" to the EU's neighbours, allowing them to co-operate deeply, but now to but added strain on the EU's institutional framework. This has in particular been pushed by France and Germany as a privileged partnership for Turkey, membership for which has faced considerably opposition on cultural and logistical grounds.
|Albania||28 April 2009||(not yet official candidate)|
|Austria||17 July 1989||1 January 1995|
|Belgium||N/A||23 July 1952|
|Bulgaria||14 December 1995||1 January 2007|
|Croatia||21 February 2003||negotiating|
|Cyprus||3 July 1990||1 May 2004|
|Czech Republic||17 January 1996||1 May 2004|
|Denmark||10 August 1961|
|11 May 1967||1 January 1973|
|Estonia||24 November 1995||1 May 2004|
|Finland||18 March 1992||1 January 1995|
|France||N/A||23 July 1952|
|Greece||12 June 1975||1 January 1981|
|Hungary||31 March 1994||1 May 2004|
|Iceland||17 July 2009||(not yet official candidate)|
|Ireland||31 July 1961|
|11 May 1967||1 January 1973|
|Italy||N/A||23 July 1952|
|Latvia||13 September 1995||1 May 2004|
|Lithuania||8 December 1995||1 May 2004|
|Luxembourg||N/A||23 July 1952|
|Macedonia||22 March 2004||official candidate|
|Malta||3 July 1990||1 May 2004|
|Montenegro||15 December 2008||(not yet official candidate)|
|Morocco||20 July 1987|
|Netherlands||N/A||23 July 1952|
|Norway||30 April 1962|
|21 July 1967|
|25 November 1992|
|Poland||5 April 1994||1 May 2004|
|Portugal||28 March 1977||1 January 1986|
|Romania||22 June 1995||1 January 2007|
|Slovakia||27 June 1995||1 May 2004|
|Slovenia||10 June 1996||1 May 2004|
|Spain||28 June 1977||1 January 1986|
|Serbia||22 December 2009||(not yet official candidate)|
|Sweden||1 July 1991||1 January 1995|
|Switzerland||25 May 1992|
|Turkey||14 April 1987||negotiating|
|United Kingdom||10 August 1961|
|10 May 1967||1 January 1973|
|W. Germany||N/A||23 July 1952|
|* Applications to the European Coal and Steel Community,
European Communities and European Union depending on date.
The European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was proposed by Robert Schuman in his declaration on 9 May 1950 and involved the pooling the coal and steel industries of France and West Germany. Half of the project states, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, had already achieved a great degree of integration between themselves with the organs of Benelux and earlier bilateral agreements. These five countries were joined by Italy and they all signed the Treaty of Paris on 23 July 1952. These six members, dubbed the 'inner six' (as opposed to the 'outer seven' who formed the European Free Trade Association who were suspicious of such plans for integration) went on to sign the Treaties of Rome establishing two further communities, together known as the European Communities when they merged their executives in 1967.
The Community did see some loss of territory due to the decolonialisation occurring in their era. Algeria, which was an integral part of France, had a special relationship with the Community. Algeria gained independence on 5 July 1962 and hence left the Community. There was no enlargement until the 1970s.
The United Kingdom, which had refused to join as a founding member, changed its policy following the Suez crisis and applied to be a member of the Communities. This was also due to economic reasons; Britain was surprised at the success of the EEC and failed to secure a free trade deal with it. British growth was sluggish as most of its trade was with its former empire when the greatest increases in world trade was between industrialised countries (such as within the EEC). The UK and US were also concerned about France attempting to usurp US leadership in Europe and the US encouraged the UK to join in order to counter balance French influence. Other EEC members were also inclined to British membership on those grounds, and why France was against it. French President Charles de Gaulle also feared Britain's US influence and vetoed British membership.
Once de Gaulle had left office, the door to enlargement was once again opened. The EEC economy had also slowed down and British membership was seen as a way to revitalise the community. After a 12-hour talk between British Prime Minister Edward Heath and French President George Pompidou took place did Britain's third application succeed. After Britain was accepted Prime Minister Edward Heath said:
"For my part, I have no doubt at all that the discussions which we have had will prove of real and lasting benefit, not only to Britain and France, but to Europe as a whole."
As part of the deal for British entry, France agreed to allow the EEC its own monetary resources. However France made that concession only as Britain's small agriculture sector would ensure that Britain would be a net contributor to the CAP dominated EEC budget. Applying together with the UK, as on the previous occasions, were Denmark, Ireland, and Norway. These countries were so economically linked to the UK that they considered they could not stay out of the EEC if the UK went in. However the Norwegian government lost a national referendum on membership and hence did not accede with the others on 1 January 1973. Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, did not join the Community with the United Kingdom at this point, which led to further discussion with Spain about the international status of Gibraltar.
The next enlargement would occur for different reasons. The 1970s also saw the Greece, Spain, and Portugal emerge from dictatorship. These countries desired to consolidate their new democratic systems by binding themselves into the EEC. Equally, the EEC was unsure about which way these countries were heading and wanted to ensure stability along its southern borders. However Francois Mitterrand initially opposed their membership fearing they were not ready and it would water the community down to a free trade area. Greece joined the EU in 1981 and the two Iberian countries in 1986.
The year 1985, however, saw the only time a country had voted to leave the Community, when Greenland was granted home rule by Denmark and the territory used its new powers and voted to withdraw from the Community (See member state territories). Morocco and Turkey applied for membership in 1987. Morocco's application was turned down as it was not considered European, while Turkey's application was accepted. However, Turkey received candidate status only in 1999 and began official membership negotiations in 2004. Currently, 11 of the 35 chapters have been opened with Turkey (with 1 already closed)
After the 1970s Europe experienced a downturn which led to leaders launching of the Single European Act which set to create a single market by 1992. The effect of this was that EFTA states found it harder to export to the EEC and businesses (including large EFTA corporations such as Volvo) wished to relocate within the new single market making the downturn worse for EFTA. EFTA states began to discuss closer links with the EEC despite its domestic unpopularity. Combined with this 1989 removed another major obstacle to the membership of EFTA countries in the EEC. Austria, Finland and Sweden were neutral in the Cold War so membership of an organisation developing a common foreign and security policy would be incompatible with that. As that obstacle was removed, the desire to pursue membership grew stronger. The end of the Cold War also saw, on 3 October 1990, the reunification of East and West Germany. Hence East Germany became part of the Community in the new reunified Germany (not increasing the number of states).
The Community later became the European Union in 1993 by virtue of the Maastricht Treaty and established standards for new entrants so their suitability could be judged. These Copenhagen criteria stated in 1993 that a country must be a democracy, operate a free market, and be willing to adopt the entire body of EU law already agreed upon. Also in 1993 the European Economic Area was established with the EFTA states except Switzerland. Most of the new EEA states pursued full EU membership as the EEA did not sufficiently satisfy the needs of their export based corporations. The EU has also preferred these states to integrate via the EEA rather than full membership as the EEC wished to pursue monetary integration and did not wish for another round of enlargement to occupy their attention. However with the EEA's credibility dented following rejection by businesses and Switzerland, the EU agreed with full membership. This was more readily accepted with the prospect of poorer eastern European countries wishing to join; contributions from richer countries would help balance the EU budget. On 1 January 1995 Austria, Finland, and Sweden acceded to the EU marking its fourth enlargement. The Norwegian government lost a second national referendum on membership.
As with the Mediterranean countries in the 1980s, the former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe just emerged from dictatorship and wanted to consolidate their new democracies. They also wanted to declare themselves part of "Europe" and ensure they did not fall back into the Russian sphere of influence. The EU, and NATO, offered a guarantee of this and the EU was also seen as vital to ensuring the economic success of those countries. The EU's desire to accept these countries' membership applications was however less than rapid. The collapse of communism came quickly and was not anticipated. The EU struggled to deal with the sudden reunification of Germany with the addition of its poorer 17 million people and, while keeping its monetary union project on track, it was still at that early stage pointing the EFTA countries in the direction of the EEA rather than full membership.
The former communist states persisted and eventually the above mention issues were cleared. The US also pressured the EU to offer membership as a temporary guarantee; it feared expanding NATO too rapidly for fear of frightening Russia. Although eventually trying to limit the number of members, and after encouragement from the US, the EU pursued talks with ten countries and a change of mind from Cyprus and Malta helped to offset slightly the influx of large poor member states from the east.
In the end, eight Central and Eastern European countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia), plus the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus were able to join on 1 May 2004. This was the largest single enlargement in terms of people, landmass and number of countries, though not in terms of GDP. The less developed nature of these countries was of concern to some of the older member states, who placed temporary restrictions on the travel and rights of work of eastern citizens to their countries. The migration that occurred in any case spawned clichés in some western countries (such as the "Polish plumber"), despite the generally conceded benefit to the economies concerned.
Following this Romania and Bulgaria, who were deemed unready by the Commission to join in 2004, acceded on 1 January 2007. They, like the countries joining in 2004, faced some restrictions. The lack of progress in some areas such as the judiciary led to further restrictions, such as EU funds they would normally receive, until they fully complied.
|#||Official Name||Date||Community Countries and OMR||Associated territories||Excluded territories|
|1||ECSC Foundation||23.7.1952||Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Saarland, Italy, West Germany, West Berlin ||Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Tunis, Morocco, Guinea, French Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, DR Congo, Italian Somaliland, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Burundi, Rwanda, Netherlands New Guinea, Algeria, Comoros, Suriname, Djibouti, French-administration of Vanuatu, West Berlin, Réunion, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte, St.Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles|
|1953–1957||the above, Saarland joined West Germany||the above without the newly independent: Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Tunis, Morocco|
|2||EEC and EURATOM Foundation||1.1.1958||the above, Algeria, Réunion, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe||Guinea, French Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, DR Congo, Italian Somaliland, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Burundi, Rwanda, Netherlands New Guinea, Comoros, Djibouti, Mayotte, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Wallis and Futuna, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean||Suriname, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, West Berlin|
|1958–1962||the above||the above, without the newly independent: Guinea, French Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, DR Congo, Italian Somaliland, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Burundi, Rwanda, Netherlands New Guinea||the above|
|3.7.1962||the above, without the newly independent: Algeria||the above||the above|
|3||First Enlargement||1.1.1973||the above, Ireland, United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Denmark, Greenland||the above, Bahamas, Grenada, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Dominica, St. Lucia, Kiribati, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Vanuatu, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, St.Kitts and Nevis, Brunei, St. Helena, Pitcairn Islands, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Anguilla, Montserrat, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Bermuda||the above, Faroe Islands, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Zimbabwe, Hong Kong|
|1973–1980||the above||the above without the newly independent: Bahamas, Grenada, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Dominica, St. Lucia, Kiribati, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Comoros, Vanuatu||the above without the newly independent: Zimbabwe, Suriname|
|4||Second Enlargement||1.1.1981||the above, Greece||the above||the above|
|1981–1984||the above||the above without the newly independent: Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Brunei||the above|
|1.1.1985||the above without Greenland||the above, Greenland||the above|
|5||Third Enlargement||1.1.1986||the above, Spain, Portugal, Azores, Madeira, Plazas de soberanía||the above||the above, Macau, East Timor|
|3.10.1990||the above, East Germany and West Berlin join into Germany||the above||the above without West Berlin|
|6||Fourth Enlargement||1.1.1995||the above, Austria, Sweden, Finland||the above||the above|
|1997–1999||the above||the above||the above without the transferred to China: Hong Kong, Macau|
|7||1.5.1999||the above, Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean||the above, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles and without Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean||the above, without Aruba, Netherland Antilles|
|20.5.2002||the above||the above||the above, without the newly independent East Timor|
|8||Fifth Enlargement||1.5.2004||the above, Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Akrotiri and Dhekelia||the above||the above without Akrotiri and Dhekelia|
|9||1.1.2007||the above, Bulgaria, Romania||the above||the above|
|10||22.2.2007||the above, Clipperton, without Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean||the above, Scattered islands in the Indian Ocean, without Clipperton||the above|
Article 49 of the Maastricht Treaty (as amended) says that any European state that respects the "principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law", may apply to join the Union. The Copenhagen European Council set out the conditions for EU membership in June 1993 in the so-called Copenhagen criteria (see Criteria and process above for details). The Western Balkan states had to sign Stabilisation and Association Agreements before either applying for and gaining candidate status, and all have already done so.
The countries prioritised for membership are those in Southeast Europe, Turkey, and Iceland with three of these — Turkey, Croatia, and Macedonia — gaining candidate status. On 28 April 2009, Albania formally applied for membership in the European Union. Serbia submitted its application for membership on 22 December 2009, while Montenegro had done so on 15 December 2008.
When the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles goes ahead, there will be a minor enlargement (within the Netherlands) from the three Caribbean islands that chose to integrate with the Netherlands. The Netherlands has suggested that the Treaty of Lisbon allow the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba to opt for the status of outermost regions if they wish.
A referendum on Mayotte becoming an overseas department of France in 2011 was held on 29 March 2009. The outcome was "yes" (95.2%). This should lead to Mayotte becoming an outermost region of the European Union.