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What is the ‘acquis communautaire’?

‘Acquis communautaire’ is a French term which means something like ‘that which the Community has acquired’/‘that which the Community has achieved’. The term is used to refer to the EU’s total body of legislation, i.e. everything from treaties to directives, the case-law of the Court of Justice, declarations and international agreements, etc.

When a new member country is to be admitted to the EU, the point of departure is that it must satisfy the entire body of rules and regulations, i.e. the ‘acquis communautaire’ or the ‘acquis’ as it is also known, from the first day of membership.

In connection with the enlargement of the EU on 1 May 2004, the EU conducted a detailed review of the acquis with the candidate countries – so-called ‘acquis-screening’. As part of the acquis-screening, the Commission undertook a form of technical training in the EU’s body of rules and regulations in order to give the candidate countries a better understanding of the scope and content of this. This process gave the candidate countries the opportunity to assess the need for transitional periods in areas where the individual country did not think it would be able to comply with the requirements of the acquis from its first day of membership.