There are nine recognised candidates for membership of the European Union: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine.[1] Kosovo (the independence of which is not recognised by five EU member states) formally submitted its application for membership in 2022 and is considered a potential candidate by the European Union.

Montenegro and Serbia, the most advanced candidates, are expected to join earlier than the others.[2][3] Due to multiple factors, talks with Turkey are at an effective standstill.[4]

The accession criteria are included in the Copenhagen criteria, agreed in 1993, and the Treaty of Maastricht (Article 49). 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 EU. Whether a country is European or not is subject to political assessment by the EU institutions.[5] Past enlargement since the foundation of the European Union as the European Economic Community by the Inner Six states in 1958[6] brought total membership of the EU to twenty-eight, although as a result of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the current number of EU member states is twenty-seven.

Of the four major western European countries that are not EU members, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland have submitted membership applications in the past but subsequently frozen or withdrawn them, while the United Kingdom is a former member. Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, as well as Liechtenstein, participate in the EU Single Market and also in the Schengen Area, which makes them closely aligned with the EU; none, however, are in the EU Customs Union.

Current agenda and applicants

  Current members (27)
  Candidates negotiating (4)
  Candidates (4)
  Applicant / Potential candidate (1)
  Candidate with frozen negotiations (1)

The present enlargement agenda of the European Union regards three distinct groups of states:

These states must negotiate the terms of their EU accession with the current member states, and align their domestic legislation with EU law before joining.

There are other states in Europe that either seek membership or could potentially apply if their present foreign policy changes or the EU gives a signal that they might now be included on the enlargement agenda. However, these are not formally part of the current agenda, which is already delayed due to bilateral disputes in the Balkans and difficulty in fully implementing the acquis communautaire (the accepted body of EU law).

It was previously the norm for enlargements to see multiple entrants join the Union at once. The only previous enlargements of a single state were the 1981 admission of Greece and the 2013 admission of Croatia. However, the EU members have warned that, following the significant effect of the fifth enlargement in 2004, a more individual approach will be adopted in the future, although the entry of pairs or small groups of countries will most probably coincide.[7]

Western Balkans

See also: Strategy for the Western Balkans and Yugoslavia–European Communities relations

The European Union has made a commitment to accept the countries of the Western Balkans as full EU members

The 2003 European Council summit in Thessaloniki set the integration of the Western Balkans as a priority of EU expansion. This commitment was made in order to stabilise the region in the wake of the Yugoslav Wars, a series of ethnic wars through the 1990s that led to the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav country to join the EU in 2004, followed by Croatia in 2013.

Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia have all been officially granted candidate status.[8][9] Kosovo, which is claimed by Serbia and not recognised by 5 EU states, applied on 14 December 2022 and is considered a potential candidate by the European Union.[10][11]

Serbia and Montenegro, the most advanced candidates in their negotiation processes with the EU, may join the EU sometime between 2025 and 2030.[12][3]

The European Council had endorsed starting negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia on 26 March 2020,[13] however, the negotiation process was blocked by Bulgaria for over two years.[14] In June 2022 French President Emmanuel Macron submitted a compromise proposal which, if adopted by both countries, would pave the way for the immediate adoption of negotiating frameworks for North Macedonia and Albania by the EU Council and for the organization of intergovernmental conferences with them.[15] On 24 June 2022, Bulgaria's parliament approved the revised French proposal to lift the country's veto on opening EU accession talks with North Macedonia, with the Assembly of North Macedonia also doing so on 16 July 2022 allowing accession negotiations to begin. On the same day, the start of negotiations was set for 19 July 2022.[16]

On 8 November 2023, the European Commission recommended opening negotiations with Bosnia once the necessary degree of compliance with the membership criteria is achieved.[17] On 12 March 2024, the European Commission recommended opening EU membership negotiations with Bosnia, citing the positive results from important reforms the country enacted.[18][19][20] On 21 March 2024, all 27 EU leaders, representing the European Council, gathered for a summit in Brussels, where they unanimously approved opening EU membership negotiations for Bosnia and Herzegovina.[21][22]

Association Trio

Main article: Association Trio

See also: Accession of Georgia to the European Union, Accession of Moldova to the European Union, and Accession of Ukraine to the European Union

In 2005, the European Commission suggested in a strategy paper that the present enlargement agenda could potentially block the possibility of a future accession of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.[23] Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement between 2004 and 2010, said on the occasion that the EU should "avoid overstretching our capacity, and instead consolidate our enlargement agenda," adding, "this is already a challenging agenda for our accession process."[24]

Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine ratified an Association Agreement with the EU, and the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2014 stating that "in accordance with Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, as well as any other European country, have a European perspective, can apply for EU membership in compliance with the principles of democracy, respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, minority rights and ensuring the rule of rights."[25] They also entered the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU, which creates "framework for modernising [...] trade relations and for economic development by the opening of markets via the progressive removal of customs tariffs and quotas, and by an extensive harmonisation of laws, norms and regulations in various trade-related sectors, creating the conditions for aligning key sectors" of their economies with EU standards.[26] However, the EU did not expand further into the post-Soviet space in the 2010s.[27]

By January 2021, Georgia and Ukraine were preparing to formally apply for EU membership in 2024.[28][29][30] However, following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine submitted an application for EU membership on 28 February 2022, followed by Georgia and Moldova on 3 March 2022.[31][32] On 23 June 2022, the European Council granted candidate status to Moldova and Ukraine, and recognized Georgia as a potential candidate for membership.[33] When taking its candidacy decision for Ukraine and Moldova, the Council made opening the accession negotiations conditional to addressing respectively seven and nine key areas related to strengthening the rule of law, fighting corruption and improving governance processes.

In his speech in Moldova on 28 March 2023, President of the European Council Charles Michel mentioned that "by the end of the year, the Council will have to decide on the opening negotiations with [Ukraine and Moldova]. It will be a political decision taking into account the report that will be published by the Commission. And I sincerely hope that a positive decision will be possible by the end of the year".[34]

On 8 November 2023, the European Commission recommended opening negotiations with Moldova and Ukraine, and granting candidate status to Georgia.[17]

On 14 December 2023, the European Council decided to open accession negotiations with Moldova and Ukraine and to grant the candidate status to Georgia.[35]

The Association Trio is sometimes expanded to the Trio +1 with the inclusion of Armenia, which is not formally on the EU's enlargement agenda but is considering submitting an application for membership.

Turkey

See also: Accession of Turkey to the European Union and Turkey–European Union relations

Turkey's candidacy to join the EU has been a matter of major significance and considerable controversy since it was granted in 1999. Turkey has had historically close ties with the EU, having an association agreement since 1964,[36] being in a customs union with the EU since 1995 and initially applying to join in 1987. Only after a summit in Brussels on 17 December 2004 (following the major 2004 enlargement) did the European Council announce that membership negotiations with Turkey were officially opened on 3 October 2005.

Turkey is the eleventh largest economy in the world (measured as Purchasing Power Parity), and is a key regional power.[37][38] In 2006, Carl Bildt, former Swedish foreign minister, stated that "[The accession of Turkey] would give the EU a decisive role for stability in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, which is clearly in the strategic interest of Europe."[39]

However, others, such as former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, opposed Turkey's membership. Opponents argue that Turkey does not respect the key principles that are expected in a liberal democracy, such as the freedom of expression.[40] Turkey's large population would also alter the balance of power in the representative European institutions. Upon joining the EU, Turkey's 84 million inhabitants would bestow it the largest number of MEPs in the European Parliament. It would become the most populous country in the EU.[41] Another problem is that Turkey does not recognise one EU state, Cyprus, because of the Cyprus problem and the Cypriot government blocks some chapters of Turkey's talks. On 26 July 2016, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that Turkey's EU membership process would come to an end if the death penalty was returned in Turkey.[42] Turkey's relations with the EU have seriously deteriorated in the aftermath of the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt and subsequent purges.[43][44] On 24 November 2016, the European Parliament approved a non-binding resolution calling for the "temporary freeze of the ongoing accession negotiations with Turkey" over human rights and rule of law concerns.[45][46][47] On 6 July 2017, the European Parliament accepted the call for the suspension of full membership negotiations between the EU and Turkey.[48] On 13 December, the European Council (comprising the heads of state or government of the member states) resolved that it would open no new areas in Turkey's membership talks in the "prevailing circumstances",[49] as Turkey's path toward autocratic rule made progress on EU accession impossible.[50] On 13 March 2019, the European Parliament accepted the call for a halt to the full membership negotiations between the EU and Turkey.[51] As of 2022, and especially following Erdoğan's victory in the constitutional referendum, Turkish accession talks are effectively at a standstill.[4][52][53] However, in July 2023, Erdoğan brought up Turkey's accession to EU membership up in the context of Sweden's application for NATO membership.[54] However, in September 2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the European Union was well into a rupture in its relations with Turkey and that they would part ways during Turkey's European Union membership process.[55]

Summary table

State Status[56] Latest step Next step
 Albania
(accession process)
Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Albania were opened in July 2022.[57] None of the 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened or closed yet. Every chapter must be opened and closed to conclude the negotiations.
 Montenegro
(accession process)
Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Montenegro were opened in June 2012. All 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened, of which 3 have been provisionally closed.[58] Every chapter must be closed to conclude the negotiations.
 North Macedonia
(accession process)
Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with North Macedonia were opened in July 2022.[57] None of the 33 applicable negotiating chapters have been opened or closed yet. North Macedonia needs to implement constitutional changes according to the Council conclusions of July 2022 to complete the opening phase of the negotiations.[59]
 Serbia
(accession process)
Candidate negotiating Accession negotiations with Serbia were opened in January 2014. Out of 34 applicable negotiating chapters, 22 have been opened, of which 2 have been provisionally closed.[60] Every chapter must be opened and closed to conclude the negotiations.
 Bosnia and Herzegovina
(accession process)
Candidate The European Council decided in March 2024 to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina.[61] The European Council needs to set a starting date for negotiations.
 Georgia
(accession process)
(relations)
Candidate The European Council granted candidate status to Georgia in December 2023.[35] The European Commission needs to recommend starting negotiations.
 Moldova
(accession process)
(relations)
Candidate The European Council decided in December 2023 to open accession negotiations with Moldova.[35] The EU needs to adopt a negotiating framework once the Commission recommendations of November 2023 are addressed.[59]
 Ukraine
(accession process)
(relations)
Candidate The European Council decided in December 2023 to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.[35] The EU needs to adopt a negotiating framework once the Commission recommendations of November 2023 are addressed.[59]
 Kosovo
(accession process)
Applicant / Potential candidate Kosovo submitted its application for membership in December 2022.[11] The European Council needs to request the opinion of the European Commission.
 Turkey
(accession process)
(relations)
Candidate with frozen negotiations Accession negotiations with Turkey were opened in October 2005. Out of 33 applicable negotiating chapters, 16 have been opened, of which 1 has been provisionally closed.[62] Turkey's accession negotiations are frozen and, under the current circumstances, no further chapters are being considered for opening or closing.[62] The European Parliament committee voted to suspend accession negotiations in 2019.[63][64] On 18 July 2023, the EU decided not to restart full membership negotiations with Turkey.[65]

Timeline

Level of preparation for acquis chapters

Current situation

The table below shows the level of preparation of applicant countries for adopting the acquis communautaire, on a scale from 1 to 5 points, according to the data of the 2023 reports of the European Commission processed by European Pravda:[110]

Change over the last year

The table below shows the change in the level of preparation of applicant countries for adopting the acquis communautaire over the last year, according to the data of the 2023 reports of the European Commission, processed by European Pravda:[110]

Evaluation of actions over the past year

The table below shows the assessment of the actions of the candidate countries over the last year, according to the data of the 2023 reports of the European Commission, processed by European Pravda:[110]

States not on the agenda

Countries that could join the European Union
  Current members
  Candidate countries
  Applicant / potential candidate countries
  Membership possible

Main article: Foreign relations of the European Union

The Maastricht Treaty (Article 49) states that any European country (as defined by a European Council assessment) that is committed to democracy may apply for membership in the European Union.[121] In addition to European states, other countries have also been speculated or proposed as future members of the EU.

Sovereign states

States in Europe that have chosen, for various reasons, not to join the EU have integrated with it to different extents according to their circumstances. Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein participate directly in the single market via the EEA, Switzerland does so via bilateral treaties and the other European microstates (Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City) have specific agreements with the EU and neighbouring countries, including their use of the euro as their currency. Most of these countries are also part of the Schengen Area. Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland have all previously had live applications to join the EU, which have been withdrawn or otherwise frozen. Such applications could be resubmitted in the event of a change in the political landscape.

On 5 March 2024, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Armenia would apply for EU candidacy by autumn 2024 at the latest.[122] On 12 March 2024, the European Parliament passed a resolution confirming Armenia meets Maastricht Treaty Article 49 requirements and that the country may apply for EU membership.[123]

 Armenia
Main article: Armenia–European Union relations
Relationship: Armenia-EU Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement.[124]
Main obstacles: Membership of competing Eurasian Economic Union, security dependency on Russia.[125]
Proponents: Armenian National Movement Party,[126] Bright Armenia, Civil Contract,[122][127] European Party of Armenia,[128] For The Republic Party, Free Democrats, Heritage,[129] People's Party of Armenia,[130] Republic Party, Rule of Law,[131] Sovereign Armenia Party,[132] Union for National Self-Determination[133]
Opponents: Prosperous Armenia,[134] Republican Party of Armenia[135]
Public opinion: 40% in favour, 11% against (2020 poll)[136]
 Belarus
Main article: Belarus–European Union relations
Relationship: Participation in the Eastern Partnership (suspended on 28 June 2021). As of 2020 the European Union does not recognise Alexander Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus.
Main obstacles: Alexander Lukashenko's authoritarian rule, Eurosceptic government, Russian political influence, Union State (integration with Russia).
Proponents: Belarusian Christian Democracy, BPF Party, United Democratic Forces of Belarus, Belarusian Liberal Party of Freedom and Progress, United Civic Party of Belarus, Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Assembly), Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly
Opponents: Russian government, Alexander Lukashenko, Belaya Rus
Public opinion: 42.1% in favour (2013 poll with several options)[137]
 Iceland
Main article: Iceland–European Union relations
Relationship: Member of the European Economic Area and Schengen Area, frozen membership application.
Main obstacles: Common Fisheries Policy[138] and others.
Proponents: Social Democratic Alliance, Reform Party, Bright Future
Opponents: Independence Party, Left-Green Movement, Progressive Party
Public opinion: 47% in favour, 33% against (2022 poll).[139]
 Norway
Main article: Norway–European Union relations
Relationship: Member of the European Economic Area and Schengen Area, frozen application, but not withdrawn.
Main obstacles: Common Fisheries Policy and others, public opinion.
Proponents: Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Party
Opponents: Progress Party, Centre Party, Red Party, Socialist Left Party
Public opinion: 26% in favour, 53% against (2022 poll).[140]
 Russia
Main article: Russia–European Union relations
Relationship:
Main obstacles: Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule, Eurosceptic government, and occupation of territories within Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Proponents: Yabloko, People's Freedom Party, Russia of the Future, Democratic Party of Russia, 5th of December Party, Green Alternative
Opponents: Vladimir Putin, United Russia, Communist Party of the Russian Federation, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, For Truth, National Patriotic Forces of Russia
Public opinion: 38% in favour, 40% against (2013 poll).[141]
 San Marino
Main article: San Marino–European Union relations (Microstates and the European Union)
Relationship: Bilateral treaties, open border, customs union, and euro adoption.
Main obstacles: Small size.[142]
Proponents: United Left,[143] Future Republic,[144] Libera San Marino,[145][146] Party of Socialists and Democrats,[147] Socialist Party,[148] For San Marino[149][150]
Opponents: Sammarinese Christian Democratic Party,[151] Sammarinese Social Right Movement
Public opinion: A referendum in 2013 on applying for EU membership resulted in 50.3% approving, but it failed due to insufficient turnout.[152]
  Switzerland
Main article: Switzerland–European Union relations
Relationship: Bilateral treaties allowing participation in the European Single Market, member of the Schengen Area, withdrawn membership application.
Main obstacles: Swiss public opinion and direct democracy.
Proponents: Green Party, Social Democratic Party,[153] Green Liberal Party,[154] Volt Switzerland[155]
Opponents: Swiss People's Party, Evangelical People's Party, Ticino League, Federal Democratic Union, Swiss Party of Labour, Solidarity,[154] Campaign for an Independent and Neutral Switzerland[156][157]
Public opinion: A Swiss referendum on restarting EU membership negotiations in 2001 was defeated by 76.8%.[158]
 United Kingdom
Main article: United Kingdom–European Union relations
Relationship: Withdrawal agreement, EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, past membership.
Main obstacles: January 2020 withdrawal.
Proponents: Liberal Democrats,[159] Green Party,[160] Scottish National Party
Opponents: Conservative Party, Reform UK, Workers Party of Britain
Public opinion:

50% in favour of rejoining, 33% against, 17% neither/ don't know (23-24 Nov 2023, We Think).[161]

Other proposals

Non-sovereign states

Scotland

Further information: Proposed second Scottish independence referendum and Scottish independence

The Scottish National Party (SNP) which leads Scotland's devolved government supports joining the EU should Scotland, a country of the United Kingdom, regain its independence in the future.[162]

Internal enlargement scenarios

See also: Withdrawal from the European Union

Internal enlargement is the process of new member states arising from the break-up of an existing member state.[163][164][165] There have been and are a number of active separatist movements within member states (for example in Catalonia and Flanders) but there are no clear agreements, treaties or precedents covering the scenario of an existing EU member state breaking into two or more states, both of which wish to remain EU member states. The question is whether one state is a successor and one a new applicant or, alternatively, both are new states which must be admitted to the EU.[166][167]

In some cases, a region desires to leave its state and the EU, namely those regions wishing to join Switzerland. But most, namely the two movements that held referendums during the 2010s, Scotland and Catalonia, see their future as independent states within the EU. This results in great interest in whether, once independent, they would retain EU membership or conversely whether they would have to re-apply. In the later case, since new members must be approved unanimously, any other state which has an interest in blocking their membership to deter similar independence movements could do so.[168][169] Additionally, it is unclear whether the successor state would retain any opt-outs that the parent state was entitled to.

Opinions on membership

Basque Country

Main article: Basque nationalism

The presence of a strong Basque Nationalist movement, strongly majoritary in several territories of the Basque Country, makes possible the future existence of an independent Basque Country under different potential territorial configurations. In overall terms the Basque nationalism is pro-European.

Catalonia

Main article: Catalan independence movement

On 1 October 2017, the Catalan government held a referendum on independence, which had been declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain, with potential polling stations being cordoned off by riot police. The subsequent events constituted a political crisis for Catalonia. The EU's position is to keep distance from the crisis while supporting Spain's territorial integrity and constitution.[179][180] While the debate around Scotland's referendum may inform the Catalan crisis, Catalonia is in a distinct situation from Scotland whereby the central government does not recognise the legitimacy of any independence declaration from Catalonia. If Spain does not recognise the independence of a Catalan state, Catalonia cannot separately join the EU and it is still recognised as part of Spain's EU membership.

Corsica

Main article: Corsican nationalism

Corsica has a strong and electorally successful nationalist movement, with positions ranging from autonomy to outright independence, the latter option with around 10–15% public support.[181] The independist party Corsica Libera envisions an independent Corsica within the European Union as a union of various European peoples, as well as recommendations for alignment within European directives.[182]

Flanders

Further information: Flemish Movement and Partition of Belgium

There is an active movement towards Flemish independence or union with the Netherlands. The future status of Wallonia and Brussels (the de facto capital of the EU) are unclear as viable political states, perhaps producing a unique situation from Scotland and Catalonia. There are various proposals, both within and outside the independentist movement, for what should happen to Brussels, ranging from staying part of the Belgian rump state, to joining the hypothetical Flemish state, to become a separate political entity.[183][184]

Sardinia

Main article: Sardinian nationalism

Sardinia has a strong and electorally successful nationalist movement, with positions ranging from autonomy to outright independence. Generally associated with left-wing politics, the Sardinian movement is largely pro-European and pro-environmentalism.[185][186]

According to a 2012 survey conducted in a joint effort between the University of Cagliari and that of Edinburgh,[187][188][189] 41% of Sardinians would be in favour of independence (with 10% choosing it from both Italy and the European Union, and 31% only from Italy with Sardinia remaining in the EU), whilst another 46% would rather have a larger autonomy within Italy and the EU, including fiscal power; 12% of people would be content to remain part of Italy and the EU with a Regional Council without any fiscal powers, and 1% in Italy and the EU without a Regional Council and fiscal powers.[190][191][192][193][194][195][196] A 2017 poll by the Ixè Institute found that 51% of those questioned identified as Sardinian (as opposed to an Italian average of 15% identifying by their region of origin), rather than Italian (19%), European (11%) and/or citizen of the world (19%).[197][198]

Sardinian nationalists address a number of issues, such as the environmental damage caused by the military forces[199][200][201][202][203][204][205][206][207] (about 60% of such bases in Italy are located on the island),[208] the financial and economic exploitation of the island's resources by the Italian state and mainland industrialists,[209] the lack of any political representation both in Italy and in the European Parliament[210][211] (due to an unbalanced electoral constituency that still remains to this day,[212] Sardinia has not had its own MEP since 1994),[213] the nuclear power and waste (on which a referendum was proposed by a Sardist party,[214] being held in 2011[215]) and the ongoing process of depopulation and Italianization that would destroy the Sardinian indigenous culture.[216]

Veneto

Main article: Venetian nationalism

Similarly to Sardinia, Veneto has a strong and electorally successful nationalist movement, with positions ranging from autonomy to outright independence. In the 2014 independence referendum, an online unofficial referendum, 89% of participants were in favour of Veneto becoming "a federal, independent and sovereign state" and 55% supported accession to European Union membership.[217] Three years later, in the 2017 autonomy referendum, with a 58% turnout, 98% of Venetians voted in favour of "further forms and special conditions of autonomy to be attributed to the Region of Veneto".[218] Consequently, negotiations between the Venetian government and the Italian one started.

The longstanding and largest Venetist party, Liga Veneta (LV), was established in 1979 under the slogan "farther from Rome, closer to Europe",[219] but has later adopted more Eurosceptic positions. Luca Zaia, a LV member who has served as president of Veneto since 2010, usually self-describes as a pro-Europeanist and has long advocated for a "Europe of regions" and "macro-regions".[220][221][222][223]

Wallonia

Further information: Walloon Movement and Partition of Belgium

There is a separatist movement in Wallonia although secession of Flanders from Belgium seems more likely. There is also a movement for a union with France. Although the majority is Francophone, the Walloon movement includes the Allemanophones. There are various proposals, both within and outside the independentist movement, for what should happen to Brussels.[183][184]

Member state expansion scenarios

Cyprus

Further information: European Union–Northern Cyprus relations

Area shown in orange under control of Northern Cyprus

Officially, the island nation of Cyprus is part of the European Union, under the de jure sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and thus of the European Union, and were entitled to vote in the 2004 European Parliament election (though only a few hundred registered). The EU's acquis communautaire is suspended indefinitely in the northern third of the island, which has remained outside the control of the Republic of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion of 1974. The Greek Cypriot community rejected the Annan Plan for the settlement of the Cyprus dispute in a referendum on 24 April 2004. Had the referendum been in favour of the settlement proposal, the island (excluding the British Sovereign Base Areas) would have joined the European Union as the United Cyprus Republic. The European Union's relations with the Turkish Cypriot Community are handled by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enlargement.[224]

Ireland

Further information: United Ireland

The European Council has recognised that following the UK withdrawal from the EU, if Northern Ireland were to be incorporated into a united Ireland it would automatically rejoin the EU under the current Irish membership. A historical precedent for this was the incorporation of East Germany into the Federal Republic of Germany as a single European Communities member state.[225][226]

Romania

Further information: Unification of Moldova and Romania

Opinion polls in both Moldova and Romania show significant support for the unification of the two countries, based on their reciprocal historical and cultural ties.[227][228] Such a scenario would result in Moldova becoming part of an enlarged Romania and therefore receiving the benefits and obligations of the latter's EU membership.[229] An obstacle would be the existence of the breakaway Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (Transnistria), which is considered by Moldova and most of the international community to be de jure part of Moldova's sovereign territory but is de facto independent. Transnistria's absence of strong historical or cultural links to Romania and its close political and military relationship with Russia have been seen as major hurdles to integration of the region with both Romania and the EU.[228] Another likely barrier from within Moldova would be opposition on the part of the autonomous territory of Gagauzia, whose population has been mostly against integration with Romania since at least the 1990s.[230] A 2014 referendum held by the Gagauzian government showed both overwhelming support for the region joining the Customs Union of the Eurasian Economic Union and a similar level of rejection to closer ties with the EU.[231]

Possible incorporation of special member state territories

  European Union
  Outermost regions
  Overseas countries and territories
  Special cases
  Other special territories

There are multiple special member state territories, some of which are not fully covered by the EU treaties and apply EU law only partially, if at all. It is possible for a dependency to change its status regarding the EU or some particular treaty or law provision. The territory may change its status from participation to leaving or from being outside to joining.

Danish self-governing territories

Faroe Islands

Main article: Faroe Islands and the European Union

The Faroe Islands, a self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark, is not part of the EU, as explicitly asserted by both Rome treaties.[232] The relations with the EU are governed by a Fisheries Agreement (1977) and a Free Trade Agreement (1991, revised 1998). The main reason for remaining outside the EU is disagreements about the Common Fisheries Policy,[233] which disfavours countries with large fish resources. Also, every member has to pay for the Common Agricultural Policy, which favours countries having much agriculture which the Faroe Islands does not. When Iceland was in membership negotiations around 2010, there was a hope of better conditions for fish-rich countries[citation needed], but to no avail. The Common Fisheries Policy was introduced in 1970 for the very reason of getting access for the first EC members to waters of candidate countries, namely the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark including the Faroe Islands[citation needed].

Nevertheless, there are politicians, mainly in the right-wing Union Party (Sambandsflokkurin), led by their chairman Kaj Leo Johannesen, who would like to see the Faroes as a member of the EU. However, the chairman of the left-wing Republic (Tjóðveldi), Høgni Hoydal, has expressed concerns that if the Faroes were to join the EU as is, they might vanish inside the EU, comparing this with the situation of the Shetland Islands and Åland today, and wants the local government to solve the political situation between the Faroes and Denmark first.[234]

Greenland

Main article: Greenland and the European Union

Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which meant it became part of the EEC when Denmark joined in 1973. After the establishment of Greenland's home rule in 1979, which made it an autonomous community, Greenland held a referendum on EEC membership. The result was (mainly because of the Common Fisheries Policy) to leave, so on 1 February 1985, Greenland left the EEC and EURATOM. Its status was changed to that of an Overseas Country.[235][236] Danish nationals residing in Greenland (i.e. all native population) are nonetheless fully European citizens; they are not, however, entitled to vote in European elections.

There has been some speculation as to whether Greenland may consider rejoining the now-European Union. On 4 January 2007, the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten quoted the former Danish minister for Greenland, Tom Høyem, as saying "I would not be surprised if Greenland again becomes a member of the EU... The EU needs the Arctic window and Greenland cannot alone manage the gigantic Arctic possibilities".[237] Greenland has a lot of natural resources, and Greenland has, especially during the 2000s commodities boom, contracted foreign private companies to exploit some of them, but the cost is considered too high, as Greenland is remote and severely lacks infrastructure which has to be built. After 2013 prices declined so such efforts stalled.

The Brexit debate has reignited talk about the EU in Greenland with calls for the island to join the Union again.[238]

Dutch Caribbean territories

The islands of Aruba and Curaçao, as well as Sint Maarten, are constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba are special Dutch municipalities. All are Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) under Annex II of the EC treaty.[235] OCTs are considered to be "associated" with the EU and apply some portions of EU law. The islands are opting to become an Outermost Region (OMR) of the EU, a status in which the islands form a part of the European Union, though they benefit from derogations (exceptions) from some EU laws due to their geographical remoteness from mainland Europe. The islands are focusing on gaining the same status as the Azores, Madeira, the Canary Islands, and the French overseas departments.

When Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba were established as Dutch public bodies after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles (which was an OCT) in 2010, their status within the EU was raised. Rather than change their status from an OCT to an outermost region, as their change in status within the Netherlands would imply, it was decided that their status would remain the same for at least five years. After those five years, their status would be reviewed.[needs update]

If it was decided that if one or all of the islands wish to integrate more with the EU then the Treaty of Lisbon provides for that following a unanimous decision from the European Council.[239] Former European Commissioner for Enlargement Danuta Hübner has said before the European Parliament that she does not expect many problems to occur with such a status change, as the population of the islands is only a few thousand people.[citation needed]

French overseas departments and territories

The territories of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte and Réunion are overseas departments of France and at the same time mono-departmental overseas regions. According to the EC treaty (article 299 2), all of these departments are outermost regions (OMR) of the EU—hence provisions of the EC treaty apply there while derogations are allowed. The status of the Overseas collectivity of Saint-Martin is also defined as OMR by the Treaty of Lisbon. New Caledonia and the overseas collectivities of French Polynesia, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as Wallis and Futuna are Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU.[235]

New Caledonia

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France with its own unique status under the French Constitution, which is distinct from that of overseas departments and collectivities. It is defined as an "overseas country" under the 1998 Nouméa Accord, and enjoys a high degree of self-government.[240] Currently, in regard to the EU, it is one of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT).

As a result of the Nouméa Accord, New Caledonians voted in three consecutive independence referendums in 2018, 2020, and 2021. The referendums were to determine whether the territory would remain a part of the French Republic as a "sui generis collectivity", or whether it would become an independent state. The accords also specify a gradual devolution of powers to the local New Caledonian assembly. The results of all three referendums determined that New Caledonia would remain a part of the French Republic.

See also

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