The 8 countries desperate to join EU and those that could do a Brexit and leave

European Parliament: ‘What is the EU doing for me?’

Over three years later, the UK remains alone among countries to have been a part of the European Union (EU) and left it behind.

Some predicted the departure would herald the bloc’s unravelling, others that Britain’s spectacular demise outside of the Single Market would serve as a chilling warning. Neither has proven true.

Rather, while a handful of long-term members are agitating over immigration stances, foreign diplomacy positions and monetary policy, a new wave of Eastern European nations are clamouring to get on board as they stare down Russian aggression.

Turkey’s accession has been on the cards since 1999, while the very real possibility of a Greek exit in 2012 led to the portmanteau all too familiar to Brits today — Brexit.

Check’s interactive map below to see which way the winds are blowing across the Continent.

READ MORE: Brexit in numbers: The latest data on UK’s progress outside EU


EU membership offers access to the tariff-free Single Market, a Customs Union allowing for negotiation with major global powers as a unified trading bloc, the free movement of goods, capital and people, and the guarantee of individual rights and working standards – to name just a few.

Admission, however, is a complicated and time-consuming process. Joining conditions – known as the “Copenhagen criteria” – include a stable democracy and rule of law, a functioning market economy and, in particular, the acceptance of all EU legislation, including the adoption of the Euro as currency.

These have proved either difficult pills to swallow or high bars to clear for many applicants.

There are currently eight recognised candidates for EU membership, Turkey being by far the oldest among them.

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With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, the question of Turkey’s accession has been an awkward one in the halls of Brussels since its bid was formally accepted 24 years ago in 1999.

Disagreements over Cyprus in the 2000s became testy exchanges over open border policy as the European migrant crisis unfolded in 2015. As President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strengthened his grip on power and reports of human rights abuses grew in number, negotiations stalled.


One of the most recent accession bids, however, that of Ukraine, has been advancing at an unprecedented pace. Within months of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of the country, the European Council granted Kyiv, alongside Moldova, candidate status last June.

The EU has been unequivocal in its support of Ukraine, imposing a raft of ever-more restrictive sanctions on Russia and providing political, financial and humanitarian assistance. Just a year and a half after accepting its bid, negotiations are slated to begin on December 23.


Montenegro has been an official candidate since 2010 and Serbia since 2012 – negotiations are well underway and they are expected to join as early as 2025.

North Macedonia (2005), Albania (2014) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (2022) are also slated to begin talks soon. Georgia and Kosovo, for their part, have submitted applications and are considered “potential candidates” by the EU.

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The European Commission’s latest Eurobarometer survey shows 45 percent of respondents in member states tend not to trust the EU.

Euroscepticism may have peaked a decade ago in the throes of the sovereign debt crisis, but it has remained a strong undercurrent in European politics ever since. Although no in/ot referendums have been held since the UK’s in 2016, a number of political parties have gained significant traction by pledging to hold one if in power.

Whether it be overreaching laws, untenable immigration quotas or corruption scandals like Qatargate eroding the institution’s democratic legitimacy, many are the reasons to be looking for a way out.


Hungary only joined the EU in 2004, but may soon be the first on the Continent to trigger Article 50 and break away, as President Viktor Orban continues to drive a wedge between his government and the bloc’s faraway leadership.

A beneficiary of EU structural assistance until 2022, budget funds have since been withdrawn over cited rule-of-law issues. In view of controversial judicial reforms and restrictions on media freedoms and LGBTQ rights, Hungary may be deprived of the right to its six-month EU presidency next year.


Poland was the most vocal critic of the resolution passed to scrutinise Hungary, as it too diverges from Brussels on a growing number of issues. The Polish government plans to hold a referendum on the country’s participation in the EU’s migration relocation scheme this autumn, conservative Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed in July.

According to the Pollster Institute, as much as 74 percent of Poles oppose the system in its current form, which forces countries that refuse to accept migrants to contribute financially or operationally to the EU’s migration management effort.


Incoming Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has also quickly proved herself willing to challenge Brussels’ hegemony. Most recently, the right-wing coalition in charge in the country delayed ratification of reforms to the EU bailout fund.

According to Oddschecker, Italy is the most likely country to leave the EU next, followed by Greece, Austria and the Czech Republic.

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