Accession negotiations are formally opened at an Inter-Governmental Conference, where general negotiating positions of the EU and the candidate country are being exchanged, followed by the phase of analytic overview of the harmonisation of national legislation with the European Union’s acquis communautaire, better known as the “screening” process.
Screening is a formal and technical process undertaken by the European Commission with the view to preparing accession negotiations. It enables the candidate countries to get acquainted with the EU acquis and thus contribute to the negotiation preparations. Screening enables the Commission and the member-States to assess the level of a candidate country’s readiness, to get informed about their plans for future preparations, and to receive preliminary indication of the issues that will most likely arise during the negotiations.
Screening is conducted through meetings on all individual chapters except Chapters 34 and 35. There are two types of meetings for each individual chapter: first, explanatory meetings with one or more countries and, second, bilateral meetings with each country individually. After the bilateral meeting, the Commission drafts a screening report and presents it to the Council.
The decision on launching negotiations on a chapter is reached, on the basis of a candidate’s readiness, by the member-States within the Council of the European Union. The launch of negotiations in a chapter marks the beginning of a comprehensive phase of negotiations, during which the negotiations take place about the terms under which the candidate country will accept and implement the EU’s acquis in that chapter, including the transitional periods required by the candidate.
The negotiations take place on the basis of the negotiating positions of the EU and the candidate, which are prepared for each individual chapter.
After reaching an agreement between the EU and the candidate on a chapter, and when the conditions for its closure have been met, it is considered provisionally closed. The formal decision on this is made by the Inter-Governmental Conference at the ministerial level. Until the Treaty of Accession is signed there is a possibility of re-opening the chapter if significant new regulations are adopted in this area or if the candidate fails to meet the preconditions and commitments it has undertaken for that chapter.
When negotiations are temporarily closed in all chapters, the European Council in its conclusions usually marks the closing of accessions with a candidate country. The outcomes of negotiations are then incorporated into the draft Treaty of Accession, whose drafting is done by representatives of member-States, EU institutions, and candidate country.
After reaching the agreement on the draft Treaty of Accession, the text is sent for a necessary procedure within the institutions, member-States, and the candidate country. On the basis of the draft Treaty, and before signing, the Commission must reach a final opinion on the request of the candidate to join, the European Parliament must give consent, and the Council must reach a unanimous decision on admitting the new member and accepting its request for accession.
After the signing of the Treaty of Accession, the country starts participating in the work of the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament as an active participant.
In order for the Treaty to enter into force, it must be ratified by the parliaments of the member-States and the candidate country.