While it is generally known that the European Union is on a continuing path to further enlargement, few are those that know which process precedes a country becoming effectively a member state of the European Union. Much has been reported both in Maltese and international media about the obstacles to Turkey’s accession caused by the persistent breaches of human rights in that country. But how do such breaches affect Turkey and other potential member states from achieving the much sought after status? And what other criteria are measured?
In order to be eligible and therefore in order to kickstart the process, a country must firstly be geographically placed within Europe. It must also show its commitment and respect for the values of the EU, such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. But such country must also prove the stability of its institutions, a functioning market economy and capacity to cope with competition and market forces in the EU while proving its ability to adopt and implement the commitments resulting from membership.
If these criteria are fulfilled and if the EU is ‘able’ to further enlarge, a country may then be given candidate status which is then followed by long and often highly technical negotiations. These negotiations into the body of EU Law are divided on a policy basis and the European Commission will monitor the candidate country’s efforts to implement the EU acquis. In parallel, a screening process will assess whether negotiation outcomes are being implemented accordingly. Following completion of this process an accession treaty is signed and ratified by the Union and the country concerned thereby formally adopting the status of member state of the EU.
Following, the wave enlargement in 2004 when Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Cyprus and Hungary joined the EU, the subsequent accession of Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and most recently that of Croatia in 2013, the EU’s enlargement agenda is shifting towards the Western Balkans and Turkey. Currently, accession negotiations are open with Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania have candidate status, while Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidates.
On the 17 April 2018 the Commission has recommended Council to open negotiations with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania. This in the light of the progress achieved in safeguarding the values of the Union and as a means of maintaining and deepening the current momentum while recognizing the need of the EU itself to be ready for new members. Simultaneously, the Commission reiterated the importance of respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights and freedoms and the negative trend in this regard by Turkey which as a consequence “do not justify the opening of new negotiating chapters in the accession process” thereby stalling the process leading up its membership.
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Article prepared by Dr. Ylenia Micallef Grimaud
About the Author: Dr Ylenia Micallef Grimaud as EU Affairs Advisory Partner, will be heading and coordinating the EU Affairs Unit within the newly set up Diplomatique | Expert. Ylenia graduated will be lawyer in 2005 and holds a Masters in Law in European and Comparative Law awarded in 2012 from the University of Malta. Between 2005 and 2009 she worked as a lawyer with the European Commission’s Legal Service and in the European Parliament’s Tabling Office. On her return to Malta in 2010, she joined MSV Life plc’s legal and compliance unit and later was promoted to the post of Senior Manager in the CEO’s Office. Ylenia was also visiting lecturer in European Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Malta. She also held the post of Policy Officer at the European Commission’s DG Justice for a brief period.