Background document library
Sarajevo library reflection. Photo: Alan Grant

This section offers ESI’s collection of background documents related to EU enlargement. Click on the links above for the specific areas or the respective country for more detailed country-specific background document collections.

General reading

A selection of reports on the effects of the last enlargement round and on the challenges for ongoing and future enlargement.

Opinion polls

According to Eurobarometer, in 2006 more than half of EU citizens still believed that the EU had less than 25 members. What does the European public know about the EU and its neighbours? What do European citizens think of – past and future – EU enlargement? Special Eurobarometer research and other polls try to answer these questions:

EU enlargement strategy documents

The strategy documents on the enlargement process produced by the European Commission over the last decade provide a good overview of the dynamics of the enlargement process as such and of how EC thinking on the issue evolved over time.

Key European Council conclusions

The European Council, as the highest decidion making body of the EU, took a number of important decisions on EU enlargement. In fact, it resolved all those issues that could not be agreed upon among the member states on lower levels of joint decision making. Here a selection of key European Council conclusions that were crucial for the fifth enlargement round:

Economic and social cohesion

Economic and social cohesion is one of the aims – and an underlying value – of the European Union. Since 1996 the European Commission publishes reports on cohesion within EU member states and regions. Full reports are published every three years (the next one in 2010), in the years between shorter progress reports. The fourth full cohesion report, published in 2007, for the first time included all countries and regions of the enlarged EU-27. These reports offer interesting insights on the question of how much the new member states managed to catch-up with the EU-15.

Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP)

The Stabilisation and Association Process was launched by the EU in 1999, replacing the so-called “regional approach” for the post-conflict ex-Yugoslav states and Albania. It was driven by the half-hearted realisation that a clearer European perspective for the Western Balkans was warranted. Shortly afterwards, the European Council meeting in Santa Maria da Feira on 19 and 20 June 2000 declared all countries of the Western Balkans “potential candidates for EU membership”, but stopped short from affirming that they will become EU members. The Council solely confirmed the objective of “the fullest possible integration of the countries of the region into the political and economic mainstream of Europe”. It was not before the Greek EU Presidency in 2003 that the Council declared that “the future of the Western Balkans is within the EU” (Brussels, 20-21 March) and that “the Western Balkan countries [..] will become an integral part of the EU, once they meet the established criteria” (Thessaloniki, 19-20 June).

Pre-accession funds

The EU has supported the accession countries through a variety of specially designed programmes. This section provides respective regulations, EC reports and evaluation reports of the main assistance tools of the 5th enlargement round (Phare, Ispa, Sapard) and of IPA, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance, that has replaced these instruments starting with 2007.


Basic documents and the EC’s annual overview report of its pre-accession assistance:


Phare, the oldest of the programmes, was designed in 1989, initially for Hungary and Poland only, but was quickly expanded to cover all of CEE (and for a short time even some of the Western Balkan countries). Initially a demand-driven and very broad transition programme, at the turn of the millenium it was transformed into a programme focused exclusively on helping the accession countries to meet the demands of membership, in particular in the areas of public administration, civil society, and social and economic cohesion.


Ispa, the Instrument for Structural Policy for Pre-Accession, was introduced in 2000 and modelled on the Cohesion Fund. Besides addressing the accession countries need in for investments in transport and environment infrastructure, the instrument’s aim was to prepare accession countries for the complex procedures of European Funds.


The “Special accession programme for agriculture and rural development”, like Ispa a new programme launched in 2000, was designed to prepare accession countries for the EU’s agricultural policies, and in particular for the rural development policies (that also inside the EU take an increasing share of agricultural funding).


For the new EU budget cycle 2007-2013 the pre-accession programmes were unified into one instrument, the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA). Only official candidate countries have access to all five components of the instrument, while potential candidates can draw on only two components.

Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund

The EC’s reports on the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund. The annexes are particularly interesting for those interested in data on programming and absorption.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

Basic documents related to the European Neighbourhood Policy, first outlined in 2003. The ENP includes all countries that have land or sea borders with the EU (except Russia): Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Occupied Palestinian Territory, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. A special “Eastern Partnership” covers the eastern neighbours Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine as well as the South Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia).

Gallup Balkan Monitor

The Gallup Balkan Monitor is an annual poll conducted jointly by Gallup Europe and the European Fund for the Balkans. The poll covers all the Balkans countries and surveys opinions on various issues, ranging from living standards, trust in public administration, and employment opportunities, to perceptions of the EU. Some of the most relevant reports and results are listed below:

Country specific background document sections

For country specific background document sections, please click on the respective country: