The EU has developed a policy to support the gradual integration of the Western Balkan countries with the Union. The EU aims to promote peace, stability and economic development in the region and open up the prospect of EU integration.
In order to apply for EU membership a country has to be European and respect the EU’s democratic values. It also needs stable institutions guaranteeing democracy and the rule of law; a functioning market economy; and the ability to take on and carry out the obligations of EU membership.
Parliament is fully involved in the Stabilisation and Association Process and must also consent to any new accession to the EU. In addition, through its budgetary powers, it has direct influence over the amounts allocated to the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance. Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs appoints standing rapporteurs for all candidate and potential candidate countries. Parliament expresses its positions on enlargement in the form of annual resolutions responding to the Commission’s latest annual country reports.
On 1 July 2013, Croatia became the first of the seven countries to join, and Montenegro, Serbia, the Republic of North Macedonia and Albania are official candidates. Accession negotiations and chapters have been opened with Montenegro and Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential candidate countries.