IATE term of the week: Opening benchmark

May 2, 2014 12:47 pm

On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 enlargement this week’s IATE term is opening benchmark.

Ten years ago, on 1 May 2004, the EU enlarged from 15 to 25 Member States (and with two subsequent enlargements to 28). It brought stability and reunited Europe after years of artificial division during the cold war; it made the EU the world’s biggest single market and increased trade between Member States, thus contributing to economic growth and strengthening further Europe’s weight in global affairs.

Today, the enlargement policy continues to drive transformation and anchor stability in the countries of Southeast Europe aspiring to EU membership. The pull and influence of the EU is helping them implement democratic and economic reforms, improve the rule of law and build bridges with their neighbours, thus overcoming the legacy of the past. What is then, 10 years after the historic reunification of Europe, the impact and significance of the EU’s enlargement policy?


Membership negotiations (Read more)

Membership negotiations cannot start until all EU governments agree, in the form of a unanimous decision by the EU Council, on a framework or mandate for negotiations with the candidate country.

Negotiations take place between ministers and ambassadors of the EU governments and the candidate country in what is called an intergovernmental conference.

Negotiations under each chapter are based on the following elements:

  1. Screening – the Commission carries out a detailed examination, together with the candidate country, of each policy field (chapter), to determine how well the country is prepared. The findings by chapter are presented by the Commission to the Member States in the form of a screening report. The conclusion of this report is a recommendation of the Commission to either open negotiations directly or to require that certain conditions – opening benchmarks – should first be met.
  2. Negotiating positions – before negotiations can start, the candidate country must submit its position and the EU must adopt a common position. For most chapters the EU will set closing benchmarks in this position which need to be met by the Candidate Country before negotiations in the policy field concerned can be closed. For chapter 23 and 24, the Commission is proposing that in the future these chapters would be opened on the basis of action plans, with interim benchmarks to be met based on their implementation before closing benchmarks are set.

The pace of the negotiations then depends on the speed of reform and alignment with EU laws in each country. The duration of negotiations can vary – starting at the same time as another country is no guarantee of finishing at the same time.

Check the related press release.

Enlargement glossary

Video material

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