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Agriculture and rural development

Agriculture in EU enlargement

The role of agriculture and rural development

Agriculture is one of the most complex, sensitive and critical issues in the enlargement process due to:

  • its significant size (share of GDP and the high proportion of the population active in agriculture);
  • its structural deficiencies (subsistence and semi-subsistence farming).

The European Commission experts in the field of agriculture and rural development provide assistance and guidance to candidate and potential candidate countries in preparing for future accession to the EU and more specifically, the common agricultural policy (CAP) and rural development.

Conditions for the agriculture and rural development sector

Two sets of criteria are of key importance.

Economic aspects

  • The existence of a functioning market economy, based on clear property rights, functioning markets, price liberalisation and macroeconomic stability.
  • The capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the EU, and from imported agricultural and food products.

Community standards

  • Adequate administrative capacity of the agricultural administrations, particularly in the area of agricultural policy formulation, analysis, implementation, support payment and control.
  • Adequate administrative capacity for the formulation and implementation of pre-accession rural development measures and later community rural development programmes.
  • Legislative alignment and setting-up of administrative capacities in the areas of organic farming, quality policy and other horizontal aspects.
  • At market level, setting up market mechanisms, including marketing standards, price reporting, quota management, producer organisations and public intervention.

Accession negotiations

Accession negotiations in agriculture focus on the procedures for future direct payments, support for rural development and the need for transitional measures to allow for integration into the EU, taking into account the specific circumstances of the agricultural sector in each country.

A large number of binding rules and their effective enforcement by an efficient public administration are essential for the functioning of the CAP.

This includes the laws governing management systems, such as a paying agency and the integrated administration and control system, and also the capacity to implement rural development actions.

EU membership requires the integration of a range of agricultural products, including arable crops, sugar, animal products and specialised crops, into the common organisation of the market.

Related information

Steps towards joining

Common organisation of agricultural markets

Stabilisation and association process

The stabilisation and association process sets out common political and economic goals, supported by contractual, economic and financial instruments to strengthen reforms and accompany the transition process in the Western Balkans.

The two main instruments allowing the EU to stabilise and progressively bring the Balkan countries in line with its own economic and legal systems are:


Albania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey are the five countries with the status of 'candidate'.

Further information on candidates

Potential candidates

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo have the status of 'potential candidate'.

Further information on potential candidates