Who’s leading and who’s lagging in ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ race to join EU

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Series Details Vol.7, No.41, 8.11.01, p17
Publication Date 08/11/2001
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Date: 08/11/01

By Martin Banks

THE European Commission is set to take the wraps off its much-awaited annual progress report on how each of the countries queuing up to join the EU are doing.

The report is due out next Tuesday (13 November), but European Voice can unveil its own up-to-date guide on the 12 candidates' progress today. Our comprehensive round-up spells out exactly how close each applicant country is to satisfying the strict tests they need to pass before they can join the EU club.

Progress is measured by how much Union law each country has adopted. The body of law in question - the acquis communautaire - has 31 thematic 'chapters', ranging from agriculture and regional policy to competition and free movement of people.

Currently, the divided island of Cyprus and ex-Communist stronghold Hungary lead the race among countries hoping to join the Union, having each closed 23 and 22 of the chapters respectively.

Bottom of the league are Romania and Bulgaria, with Poland, the biggest of 12 countries involved in formal accession talks, third from last in the race.

But accession is not just a question of changing national legislation. Other vital criteria for membership include demonstrating a respect for human rights and developing the administrative structures necessary to implement the various changes.

The first wave of successful applicants are due to join the European Union in 2004. For the 12 applicants, membership represents a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity,

according to Domingo Jimenez-Beltran, director of the Copenhagen-based European Environment Agency.

Although a candidate country since 1987, Turkey has not met the basic conditions of a functioning democracy - known as the Copenhagen criteria - and therefore cannot start entry negotiations with the Commission.

Preview of the European Commission's annual progress report on the candidate countries, due on 13 November 2001.

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