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Copenhagen Criteria


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  • Contemporary History (Post 1945)

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Criteria established by the EU at the European Council meeting in Copenhagen in 1993. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union during 1989–91, eastern European states began pushing to be admitted into the EU. At Copenhagen, EU member states agreed on the criteria which any state that wished to join the EU, whether from eastern Europe or not, should fulfil. These consisted of: (1) stable political institutions and the guarantee of human rights and the rule of law; (2) economic stability and the existence of a robust market that could cope with economic integration with the EU; and (3) an acceptance of the Community Acquis, the body of EU law that has developed since the beginning of European integration in the 1950s. In addition to these criteria, the EU stipulated that its own institutions needed to be prepared to accept new members. The Copenhagen Criteria appeared to provide objective benchmarks for new member states and thus provided great incentives for potential candidate states to engage in political, legal and economic reform. At the same time, however, the decision on whether candidate states for membership fulfilled the Copenhagen Criteria was a political one, so that the Criteria were far from fully objective in their application.

(1) stable political institutions and the guarantee of human rights and the rule of law; (2) economic stability and the existence of a robust market that could cope with economic integration with the EU; and (3) an acceptance of the Community Acquis, the body of EU law that has developed since the beginning of European integration in the 1950s.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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