Brexit news: The six countries that could join the EU next

European Union lambasts Boris Johnson over NI 'clarity'

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Brexit remains far from complete in the Government’s eyes, with several departments locked in negotiations with the EU’s representatives over outstanding issues. Opinion towards the bloc remains divided in the UK and, despite calls to rejoin the Single Market from seasoned Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, Boris Johnson has no plans to firm relations with his European “friends”. Other nations don’t share the same opinions as the UK’s Government, with the EU poised to accept six notable allies soon.

Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky applied to join the EU after Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

The aspirant country has now passed the first few steps in its membership application, and in record time, as the European Council asked the European Commission to provide its opinion on the application by March.

The commission was expected to provide its evaluation by the end of May, but the invasion has likely skewed its usual timelines.

Turkey

Turkey’s application formed a controversial aspect of the UK’s 2016 EU referendum when Brexiteers argued the bloc was due to accept the nation into its ranks.

While it is still possible Turkey could join, negotiations between the EU and the country’s national Government have continued for more than 20 years.

The bloc accepted its candidacy in 1999, and negotiations continue in several areas, such as nature protection and horizontal legislation.

Albania

Albania applied to the EU in 2009, two years after its Balkan neighbours Romania and Bulgaria had joined.

The country achieved candidate status in 2014 and received an unconditional recommendation for accession negotiations four years later.

In July 2020, Albania presented Member State with a draft negotiating framework.

North Macedonia

The Balkan republic received its candidate status from the EU in 2005 but has had a less smooth progression compared to Albania.

In 2016, the bloc’s representatives granted a conditional recommendation to conduct accession negotiations, provided the country met select criteria.

The negotiations were contingent on “urgent reform priorities” North Macedonia eventually met, and it presented its draft negotiating framework with Albania in July 2020.

Montenegro

Montenegro’s EU application was a much more straightforward process, having progressed without issue since 2008.

The country received its candidate status relatively quickly by 2010, and the first accession negotiations began in 2012.

Negotiations over Chapter 27 of 30 commenced in 2018, putting the country a step away from ratification.

Serbia

Serbia is in a similar place to Montenegro, but it has taken the country longer to get there.

The country received candidate status in 2012, three years after its 2009 application.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker invited the country to submit its Chapter 27 negotiating framework in 2016, and it followed through in 2020.

Which countries joined the EU most recently?

The EU last accepted a member state three years before Brexit in 2013, when Croatia joined.

Croatia’s membership approval came during a bumper decade for the bloc, as 12 countries had joined its ranks between 2004 and 2007.

Bulgaria and Romania joined six years prior in 2007, three years after the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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