candidate countries
European Union
Candidate country status is conferred by the European Council on the basis of an opinion from the European Commission, drawn up following an application for membership of the European Union by the country concerned.
However, candidate country status does not give a right to join the EU automatically. The Commission scrutinises the application in the light of the accession criteria (Copenhagen criteria), while the accession process starts with the European Council decision to open accession negotiations.
Depending on their circumstances, candidate countries may be required to institute a reform process in order to bring their legislation in line with the community acquis and to strengthen their infrastructure and administration if necessary. The accession process is based on the pre-accession strategy, which provides instruments such as financial aid.
Accession depends on the progress made by the candidate countries, which is regularly assessed and monitored by the Commission.

Practical Law Dictionary. Glossary of UK, US and international legal terms. . 2010.

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