However, Croatia has work to do to meet membership conditions even then. It must still do more to reform its judiciary system and to eliminate corruption. It also must find a way to allow the safe return of Serbs who fled the country after its 1991-95 civil war, the Press Association reported Monday.
Since 2004, the EU has grown from 15 to 27 member states. Along with the three current candidate states another four countries - Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia - hope to become candidates within the next two years.
In addition to those four, all the other Western Balkan states - Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia including Kosovo - are potential candidate countries under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244. That is provided they fulfill the accession criteria, according to a statement on the EU website.
And it's meeting the accession criteria that is holding up Turkey's membership. While Macedonia became a candidate nation so recently that negotiations on its accession requirements haven't begun, the EU statement says.
Among tasks Turkey has yet to accomplish is doing more to protect freedom of speech, putting civilians in charge of its military, making sure that non-Muslim citizen's rights are protected, protecting women and children and strengthening trade union rights, according to Press Association reports.
Another big problem holding Turkey back from achieving EU membership is its refusal to trade freely with EU member Cyprus, Agency France Press reports.
However, Turkey did begin implementing some political reforms this year.
To become a member country of the European Union candidate nations must achieved certain goals. According to the EU website, those criteria are:
- stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities;
- the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union;
- the ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic & monetary union.
Each country is evaluated when they apply for membership. Then the EU sets specific conditions for meeting those criteria, which is the process called accession negotiation.