Nine countries are hoping to join the European
Union. Some are close to membership, while others have a long road
ALBANIA: Must tackle issues such as organized crime, corruption and the rule of law to formally become an EU accession candidate.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: A potential candidate, which still hosts EU soldiers tasked with preventing ethnic conflict and training local security personnel. The EU's executive sees substantial shortcomings in the justice sector, and demands efforts to tackle corruption and organized crime.
CROATIA: Set to become the EU's 28th member state in July 2013 and already has observer status. But 10 key measures are still demanded, including privatisation measures and judicial reforms.
ICELAND: Applied for EU membership in 2009, after decades of economic cooperation. Meets most EU democratic standards, but lags in financial services, food safety and free movement of capital. Issues include its fisheries industry and compensation for British and Dutch investors hit by Iceland's bank collapse.
KOSOVO: Five EU member states do not recognize the independence of the former Serbian breakaway province, making EU membership a distant prospect. Brussels has proposed steps towards a stabilization and association agreement once certain conditions are met.
MACEDONIA (FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF): Candidate country since 2005, but Greece has blocked the start of negotiations due to conflict over the country's name, which it shares with a Greek region. A high-level accession dialogue with Skopje began in March.
MONTENEGRO: Official candidate, whose negotiations began in June. The country has made good progress in some areas but lags in judicial reforms while also tainted by organized crime and high corruption.
SERBIA: Official candidate since March, after previous efforts were hampered by a lack of cooperation with United Nations war crimes investigations. Accession talks have not yet begun. Relations with Kosovo - whose independence Serbia does not recognize - is straining ties with the EU, which calls for new impetus in reforms demanded.
TURKEY: Applied for membership in 1987; negotiations began in 2005 but have reached an impasse. Thirteen out of 85 negotiation chapters are open, but only one has been completed. Eight chapters are blocked by Turkey's stance on EU member Cyprus. Turkey has also been told to improve its rule of law and protection of minorities. But the country is also an important economic and geopolitical ally.
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