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The European Union (EU) will discuss at a summit this Thursday and Friday the candidate status requested by Ukraine to enter the bloc, which has received fifteen countries in the last 30 years and has others waiting in the waiting room.

The acceptance of the candidacies of Ukraine and Moldova, viewed positively last week by the European Commission, requires the unanimity of the member countries and implies the start of long and complicated negotiations.

– Several extensions and one exit

The European Union, created in 1957 by six countries, has undergone several enlargements, most since 1995.

– 1995: Austria, Sweden and Finland join the group. With Finland, the EU reaches the Russian border for the first time.

– 2004: ten new accessions, mostly from countries of the former Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe (Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and the Czech Republic).

– 2007: Bulgaria and Romania.

– 2013: Croatia.

– 2020: Following a referendum in 2016, the UK becomes the first country to leave the bloc, which currently has 27 members.

– Five candidates in the lobby

Four Western Balkan countries are officially candidates for membership but have been stuck in the waiting room for years: North Macedonia (2005), Montenegro (2010), Serbia (2012) and Albania (2014).

“We share the same history (…) as well as the same destiny,” said the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in October 2021, assuring that “the EU will not be fully completed without the Western Balkans.”

Turkey, a candidate since 1999, began accession negotiations in 2005, but its relations with Brussels have deteriorated since 2016 due to a crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after a failed coup.

In 2019, the EU Council said the negotiations were at a “stalemate”.

– Potential candidates

Two other former republics of the Federation of Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, are considered potential candidates, but do not yet meet the accession criteria.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, can join this group. The European Commission did not recommend on June 17 the granting of official candidate status.

In 2009, the EU launched an Eastern Partnership with Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Belarus, proposing closer economic and political relations in exchange for internal reforms.

Countries like Ukraine and Georgia see this agreement as a first step towards membership.

In June 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Moscow, suspended his participation.

– Long and complicated negotiations

The analysis of kyiv’s candidacy, presented in February, was carried out with unprecedented speed in the context of the war waged by Russia since February 24 and the support for Ukraine shown by the European Union.

But accession is a complex process, which usually takes several years. Although Finland was able to integrate in less than four years, the three Baltic countries had to wait almost nine.

French President Emmanuel Macron said in May that Ukraine’s entry would take “decades.”

First, the country must receive the status of a candidate country. Then the official negotiations begin, which also require the unanimity of the Twenty-seven and which, in the case of Albania or North Macedonia, for example, have not started.

These negotiations between the candidate country and the Commission address 35 chapters: free movement of goods, workers and capital, justice, freedom, security, customs union, taxation, agriculture, environment…

When the Commission recommends closing a chapter, it is the European Council that, again unanimously, decides whether or not to open a new folder.

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