The accession negotiations are negotiations on the terms under which a country will accede to the European Union and its founding treaties, which are determined, following the completion of negotiations, by an international treaty between the European Union member-States and the candidate country, the so-called Treaty of Accession.
Accession negotiations are conducted according to a negotiating framework that sets out the method and the guiding principles of the negotiations, in line with the December 2004 European Council conclusions. The negotiations are conducted in an Inter-Governmental Conference with the participation of all member-States on the one hand and the candidate country on the other. During the negotiations, the EU negotiating positions are represented by the chairman of the Council of the European Union, and the candidate country's by the State delegation.
Accession to the EU is conditioned by the adoption of all the founding rights and obligations of the EU and its institutional framework, which are collectively called acquis communautaire. The most important elements of the acquis are:
Primary legislation – founding treaties
Secondary legislation – regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations, and opinions
Other legal sources – decisions of the European Court of Justice, joint actions, joint positions, etc.
The acquis communautaire is divided into 35 chapters, which are at the same time considered negotiating chapters. Prior to accession, each country is obliged to assume all of the acquis and to be capable of implementing it effectively. If a candidate country considers that for justifiable reasons it will require a longer period of time for harmonisation in a particular chapter, it may request during negotiations on that chapter the so-called transitional periods. These transitional periods are additional periods in which the candidate country will complete the harmonisation of national legislation with the acquis in a particular area after accession to the EU. The requested transitional periods should be limited in time and scope and should not interfere with free market competition, nor affect the internal market of the Community. In certain cases, candidate countries may also request derogations from the acquis, which are permanent exceptions in particular areas. It is important to stress that transitional periods for the adoption of the acquis can also be agreed on in the interest of the EU.