The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia could meet the criteria for joining the European Union before 2023, University of St. Gallen’s Forecasting Candidate Status, looking into the practical, legal and technical aspects, concluded. Serbia, currently considered the frontrunner together with the tiny coastal republic of Montenegro, would only manage to fulfill the criteria in the mid-2030 and the same applies to Turkey.
Although the current Commission ruled out any enlargement during its mandate 2014-2019, the question as to who could join the bloc remains an interesting one despite the fact that there is not much enthusiasm for the bloc’s further expansion. The list of countries still standing in the line for EU membership includes official candidates Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey, and EU hopefuls Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
The Swiss study considered how likely it was that five of those candidate countries would join the bloc before 2050 based on previous accession benchmarks used during the grand 2004 Eastern European enlargement. Joining the EU is only possible when candidate countries satisfy a comprehensive list of criteria and when they have woven the EU law – or acquis communautaire – into their own national legislation.
Following the recent developments in Turkey, including the crackdown on opposition forces, Ankara’s membership bid is the most controversial. EU member states have called on the EU to suspend or even ditch Turkey’s application, which the country formally initiated already in 1987. The latest member state to have joined the EU was Croatia in 2013 and the most recent territorial enlargement of the EU was the incorporation of Mayotte in 2014. On top of the ongoing talks with Serbia, Turkey and Montenegro, most of the Western Balkans countries have adopted EU integration as their foreign policy goal.