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The list of EU membership hopefuls

Brussels - European Union leaders met with their counterparts from six Western Balkans countries in May 2018 to discuss further integration between the regions as they continue to work towards EU membership.

The following is a list of the EU membership hopefuls.

ALBANIA: Applied for membership in 2009 and was granted candidate status in 2014. In November 2016, the commission recommended that Tirana was ready to start detailed accession negotiations, following the launch of key judicial reforms, progress in fighting corruption and organized crime and broad respect for fundamental rights. In April 2018, the commission again recommended that the bloc begin accession talks with the country.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Applied for membership in 2016, but more reforms are needed to address deep-rooted structural problems holding back the country's development, according to the EU's last assessment. Priorities include strengthening the rule of law to bring it in line with EU standards. An inefficient administration set up in 1995 to end a war has allowed feuding ethnic leaders to skirt the required reforms for years.

KOSOVO: Five EU member states do not recognize the independence of the Serbian breakaway province, making EU membership a distant prospect. Despite this, Kosovo and the EU have entered into a deal on closer ties, partially as a reward for Pristina's progress in normalizing relations with Serbia. Kosovo has to resolve a border spat with Montenegro as a condition for its citizens to be granted visa-free access to the EU.

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Status of EU membership bids

MACEDONIA: Applied for membership in 2004 and was granted candidate status in 2005. The start of accession talks has repeatedly been delayed due to a conflict with Greece over the country's name, with renewed efforts under way to resolve the impasse. The fallout following a 2015 wiretapping scandal and enduring political instability in Macedonia have constituted further setbacks. Noting ongoing reforms, the commission in April 2018 recommended starting accession talks.

MONTENEGRO: Applied for membership in 2008, was granted candidate status in 2010 and started accession talks in 2012. The country is considered one of the closest to joining the EU, with work under way on several negotiation chapters to bring it in line with the bloc's standards. But Montenegro still needs to make progress on the rule of law as well as the fight against corruption and organized crime, the commission has said.

SERBIA: Applied for membership in 2009, was granted candidate status in 2012 and started accession talks in 2014, following progress in re-establishing relations with its former province Kosovo. Serbia is also being considered for the next round of EU enlargement, alongside Montenegro. Belgrade was praised in 2016 for its role in helping to manage an influx of migrants into Europe. But the country must show the political will to carry out reforms of the economy and the rule of law, the commission has said. Serbia must also fully normalize ties with Kosovo before becoming an EU member.

TURKEY: Applied for membership in 1987, was declared eligible in 1997 and started accession talks in 2005. In early 2016, the EU promised to reinvigorate the sluggish negotiations in return for Ankara's help in stemming migration flows towards Europe. But EU-Turkey relations soured following a July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and an ensuing crackdown that led to a purge of the military and public sector as well as the imprisonment of some 50,000 people, including journalists. The two sides met at a summit in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Varna on March 26.