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European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR)

Accession to the EU

European Commission - Enlargement - Accession to the EU

Accession of new member states to the European Union (EU) is governed by Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union. A state that wishes to apply for membership of the Union must satisfy two conditions:

  1. it must be a European state;
  2. it must respect the common values of the Member States and undertake to promote them. These are human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities (Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union).

Accession is not automatic, since it depends on the adequate preparation of the applicant country concerned and on the EU's capacity to integrate the new member. There is thus a pre-accession period of varying length, during which the candidate country adapts its institutions, standards and infrastructure to enable it to meet its obligations as a member state. The accession process involves compliance with the accession criteria*, including adoption and implementation of the acquis*.

The conditions and date of accession, any transition periods required and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded must be agreed in the form of an accession treaty between the candidate country and the Member States. To give due form to the accession, this treaty is signed and ratified by all the Member States and the candidate country in accordance with their own constitutional rules. The European Parliament gives its consent.

For more details, see the following sections on our website: