As the first decade of the new millennium comes to an end more and more countries are waiting in line to get into the European Union Turkey, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia are all potential candidates who may be joining sooner or later. Other countries, like Georgia and the Ukraine will have to do a lot more before they can be considered real candidates.
The last big enlargement of the European Union took place five years ago, when 10 countries, most of them from Eastern Europe, joined. Three years later Romania and Bulgaria followed.
Joining the European community is probably the top goal of any politician. But what does a candidate country have to do in order to join? Above all, they have to fight corruption and crime, accept the European Union's laws and open up their economies. In return they can expect lots of trade and foreign investors. On average the European Union has welcomed new members about every eight years.
At the moment, however, most of the candidate countries are stuck with the economics crisis. That is one of the reasons why enlargement is moving on very slowly. On the other hand western European countries are not very happy about enlarging the European Union too quickly. Some of the new member states have not yet caught up to western standards and citizens in traditional EU counties are blaming the newcomers for, at least, part of the current crisis.
The biggest problem for the EU appears to be Turkey. Because of its 70 million Muslims many countries like Germany, Austria or France doubt whether it should join at all. They have many immigrants from Turkey in their countries already and fear that opening up borders completely may lead to a mass immigration.
Some existing EU members have their own internal disputes with potential candidates. EU-member Slovenia is quarrelling with Croatia about sea borders between the two states. Slovenia has made it clear that it will not let Croaria join until the dispute is settled.
Greece is arguing with its neighbor because Macedonia is not only an independent state but also a Greek province. Cyprus says that Turkey cannot join until it recognizes the island's rights as a full member.
Keeping these states out could confront the European Union with instability, more economic problems and millions of people who continue dreaming of a better world.
accept = agree to
appear = seem
blame = to say that someone is responsible for a bad situation
border = line between two countries
catch up to = to be as far as other countries; to reach the standard of other countries
citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
community = club of nations
consider = thought to be, believed to be
current = what is happening right now
decade = a period of ten years
dispute = quarrel, argument
doubt = if you are not sure, uncertain
enlargement = to expand, to let more members join
fear = to be afraid of
foreign investors = companies from other countries who bring money into a country, buy factories and give people work
goal = something you hope to reach in the future
however = but
independent = free
instability = unclear situation, sometimes dangerous
internal = between two countries
join = to become a member
mass immigration = many people moving from one country to another
millennium = a thousand years
potential = possible
quarrel = argue, fight with words
recognize = to officially accept
right = what you are legally allowed to do
settle = solve
trade = to buy and sell goods
whether = if