The Treaty of Maastricht of 1992 establishes that any European country may apply for European Union (EU) membership if it respects the rule of law and the principles of liberty, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The 1993 European Council in Copenhagen further specified the requirements to be met by applicant countries:
- The country must have stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.
- The country must have a functioning market economy capable of sustaining competitive pressure and market forces within the EU, and must adhere to the aims of political and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
- The country must have the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including supporting the aims of the EU, adopting the Community legacy and a public administration capable of applying and administering the prevailing laws of the EU.
However, since the EU has the capacity to accept new members, it reserves the right to decide when it is ready to accept them.