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Thursday, 14 June, 2001, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
The candidate countries
All the countries queuing up to join the European Union have strict tests to pass before they get in. Click on the graph to find out how each of them is doing.
Progress is measured by how much EU law they have succeeded in adopting.
The body of law in question - the acquis communautaire - has 30 chapters, and some countries have closed many more than others.
But it's not just a question of changing national legislation but also developing the administrative structures to implement the changes.
In its annual progress reports, the EU also keeps a close eye on how the market economy of each country is developing and the respect for human rights - both vital criteria for membership.
With only Romania further behind in its adoption of EU law, Bulgaria has a long way to go in getting ready to join.
The country has been criticised for its weak judiciary and inability to deal with corruption.
The latest EU progress report says it is heading towards a functioning market economy but is still far from being able to deal with the forces of the EU's internal market.
There are also concerns over the integration of the Roma minority.
Even where Bulgaria has managed to adopt some of the legislation, its institutions are in no position to implement them.
Cyprus has long been top dog among the European hopefuls.
It has 22 of the chapters under its belt and its market economy is considered ready to deal with the EU's competitive pressure.
The EU is particularly keen that Cyprus tightens up on its border controls, as it will be one of the union's external borders.
Despite its good record, Cyprus is still held up by the division of the island, following the Turkish invasion of 1974, into two halves.
The EU has been encouraged by attempts to find a political settlement but until this issue is resolved, Cyprus's accession will remain problematic.
The Czech Republic was once the model east European country, but its reputation has begun to slip, and it has lost momentum in notching up chapters.
It blotted its copy book in the late 1990s over its treatment of the Roma minority but has won praise for recent efforts to right the wrongs, particularly over education.
Other human rights concerns include trafficking in women and children and overcrowding in prisons.
The Czechs have also been in the firing line over their porous borders with Austria and Germany.
The EU describes their border policing as "deficient" and calls for progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime.
Estonia has been storming ahead of its Baltic neighbours in its membership negotiations, leaving it well-placed to be among the first countries to join the EU.
Its market economy is all but ready to face the EU's internal market but it still needs to take urgent action on tax and customs.
There are also some remaining concerns about the treatment of minorities, particularly the implementation of its language law and the integration of non-citizens.
Hungary has sped through the negotiations of its recent legislative chapters and is regarded as a front-runner in the membership race.
Its economy is also looking strong, and it should soon be ready to face EU markets if it continues on the current path of reform.
It is still lagging behind on the environment but in the important area of agriculture it has made substantial progress.
Unlike many of the candidates, Hungary is backing up its legislative programme with reform of the administration to implement the changes.
Latvia is struggling far behind the other Baltic states in preparation for membership and is third from bottom of all the candidate countries.
Although the EU considers Latvia to have a functioning market economy it still has some way to go before it is ready to join the internal market.
Major concerns are corruption and the weakness of the judiciary. Latvia also needs to reform its bureaucracy.
Little progress has been made on agricultural reform, and social policy and employment are also in need of a substantial shake-up.
However, the EU has praised the Latvian language law and other steps to integrate non-citizens into Latvian society.
Lithuania has begun to make some progress towards meeting the EU's requirements for membership.
Like neighbouring Latvia, its market economy is now functioning, but it will take time and more reforms before it is ready to be part of the EU.
The reform of the legal system and the judiciary have made significant progress but steps to fight corruption have faltered as they lack the necessary enforcement agencies.
Taxation and agriculture are singled out as in particular need of reform, both in terms of adopting legislation and carrying it through administratively.
Most importantly, as Lithuania notches up its chapters, it desperately needs to strengthen its administration so that they can actually be implemented.
Although Malta may lag behind its competitors in closing chapters of the EU law, in other respects it is among the best placed to meet the membership criteria.
Its institutions are democratic and function smoothly.
Human and civil rights are respected although the EU raises some cautions concerning refugees and gender equality.
Its market is also ready to cope with the union's market forces.
After a surge in legislative momentum last year, Malta is close to alignment with the EU in many areas but agriculture and the environment are still far behind.
Poland was once considered a sure bet to be among the first to join the EU.
But recently it has begun lagging behind and has lost momentum in its push to achieve alignment with EU law.
Efforts to bring its administration up to scratch to deal with the new laws have also begun to flag.
However, its economy is still considered reasonably healthy and provided reform continues should be ready to join the internal market in the near term.
Importantly for EU concerns on immigration, progress has been made controlling what will be one of the union's external borders to the east.
But disappointingly, there is still no clear strategy for Poland's massive and underdeveloped agriculture sector - an industry that could put serious strain on the EU's purse-strings in the future.
At the bottom of the class among the candidates, Romania has an enormous amount to do before it can hope to join the European Union.
"Romania cannot be regarded as a functioning market economy and is not able to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the union in the medium term," said the latest progress report.
The EU is still deeply worried by the human rights situation in the country, particularly high levels of discrimination against the Roma and the treatment of institutionalised children.
Agriculture needs a major overhaul.
The major problem for Romania is its weak decision-making system and poor administration which is hampering any hope of progress.
Until this is addressed, Romania will continue to lag behind.
Since the change of government in Slovakia, the former bad-boy of the candidate countries has been speeding ahead with reforms.
For a long time it did not even meet the basic political criteria for accession but now it has made progress in stabilising its democratic institutions.
However the economy is stable and should be ready to face the internal market in the medium term.
But Slovakia's progress has been patchy. While making significant progress on the internal market and, to some extent, on social policy and employment, agriculture, the environment and the judiciary are still in serious trouble.
Slovenia has kept its place at the top of the list for some time now and looks certain to be one of the first new members.
Its market economy is considered ready for the internal market, barring a few more reforms to increase competition.
This is backed up by a strong legal and institutional framework.
Slovenia has made good progress across the board in adopting EU law, though concerns remain on the free movement of people and telecommunications.
Vitally it is also providing the administrative structures to implement the laws, standing it in good stead for the final push towards accession.
Although it is a candidate country, Turkey's political situation means that it has not yet begun negotiating chapters of legislation.
The basic conditions of a functioning democracy - known as the Copenhagen criteria - have to be in place before this process can begin.
Turkey will have to push through some fundamental changes, including the abolition of the death penalty, before it can set off on the road to European integration.
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