Thursday, April 20, 2023

Map: Which Countries are in the European Union in 2023, Which Aren't, and Which Want to Join?

This map and article have been revised and updated to April 2023. No new countries have joined the EU since our last update in 2020, but there are three new candidate countries and one new "potential candidate".

Map of the European Union, including all member countries, official candidate countries, and potential candidate countries, as of April 2023, updated for the recognition of Ukraine, Moldova, and Bosnia as membership candidates, and Georgia as a potential candidate (colorblind accessible). Also file under: Map of European Union Member Countries.
Map by Evan Centanni, from blank map by Ssolbergj. License: CC BY-SA

What is the European Union?

Europe's continental union is probably most famous to outsiders for its euro currency and Schengen free travel area. But it's actually much more than that: After all, the UK, whose exit from the EU in 2020 was part of a massive political storm, was never part of the Schengen Area or euro currency zone to begin with.

What actually unites the countries of the European Union is a set of laws that all members are required to share. Mostly these are laws about things like the economy, trade, natural resources, and immigration. Some countries and special areas have exemptions from certain laws, but overall, being an EU member means agreeing to follow a whole set of rules set out by the collaborative union government.

The idea is that Europe can do better economically, and better guarantee rights and standards of living, if all the countries work together as one. Needless to say, not everyone in Europe agrees this is a good thing (or that it works), and that's how the UK ended up leaving. But at the same time, many other countries are still scrambling to join.

Which Countries are in the European Union? (Full List of EU Members)

As of 2023, the European Union has 27 member countries, after the official departure of the UK in 2020. The most recent country to join was Croatia, in 2013.

List of EU Member Countries

 Denmark (except the Faroe Islands and Greenland)
 France (except some overseas regions and territories)
 Netherlands (except Caribbean islands)

*The Republic of Cyprus holds EU membership on behalf of both southern and northern Cyprus, though the north is controlled by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where EU law is considered to be "suspended" until the dispute can be resolved. Two British military bases on Cyprus's southern coast, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, are considered territories of the UK and are not part of the EU. In fact, it's arguable whether the island of Cyprus - located in the far east of the Mediterranean, near Lebanon and Syria - is even located in Europe to begin with. But in an early example of the EU being flexible about geographic definitions, Cyprus was allowed in on the basis of its shared cultural history (about three-quarters of the island's population is culturally Greek, and most of the rest is culturally Turkish).

Which Countries Used to be in the EU?

At one time, there was debate over whether it was even legal for a country to leave the EU, with some people arguing that the treaties countries signed to join the group couldn't be taken back. But the EU leadership clarified the rules in 2009 to allow it, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ("UK" or "Britain") eventually headed for the exit. The country voted in June 2016 to leave the union, but didn't officially stop being a member until the end of January 2020. So far, the UK is the only country ever to leave the EU.

List of Former EU Member Countries

 United Kingdom (UK)

Which countries are in line to join the EU?

The rules say European Union membership is open any "European" country that can convince existing members it will meet the standards of EU membership. There's no officially agreed-upon definition of where Europe ends and Asia begins, so the "European" part is very flexible. The membership standards, also more or less a matter of opinion, include being free and democratic, respecting human rights, and having a "functioning market economy" (controlled more by supply and demand than by the government). 

New members also have to adopt all the EU's laws before joining, prepare to efficiently put those laws into effect, and have the "capacity to cope" with basically unifying their economies with the EU economy as a whole. Normally, they're also required to plan on eventually adopting the euro as their currency, though there are some exceptions.

List of Official EU Candidate Countries

Joining the EU takes years of negotiation with the existing member countries, and the EU has a list of official candidate countries that are working on it now:

 Bosnia and Herzegovina
 North Macedonia
 Türkiye (Turkey)

Turkey applied all the way back in 1987, but is still a long way from getting approval from the existing EU members. The other candidate countries are mostly in early stages of membership negotiations, or haven't even formally started yet. Serbia and Montenegro are the farthest ahead in the process, but aren't expected to make it in any earlier than 2025.

Bosnia is the newest official EU candidate, after it was upgraded from "potential candidate" in December 2022. Ukraine and Moldova also became official EU candidate countries in 2022, getting approved unusually fast, in June 2022. Both countries had applied for membership less than four months earlier, just after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

List of Potential EU Candidate Countries

The EU also has an official designation for "potential candidates" that haven't been fully invited yet:


Kosovo has been held up partly because there's a debate over whether it's even a country - it declared independence from Serbia controversially in 2008, and the Serbian government says it's still part of Serbia. The world's countries are divided on the issue, and Kosovo still isn't a member of the United Nations, though most EU countries have taken its side.

Georgia applied for membership on the same day as Moldova, just a week after Russia invaded Ukraine. But when Moldova and Ukraine were made official candidates in June 2023, the EU leadership said that, although it did consider Georgia eligible, the country was "one step behind" the other two in building a stable democracy.

Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia have one important thing in common: Part of each one's claimed land area is controlled by Russia-allied forces, all of which were still claiming to be separate, independent countries in mid-2022 (Donetsk and Lugansk from Ukraine, Transnistria from Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia).

What Other European Countries Aren't in the EU?

So which countries are left that aren't in the European Union and aren't even applying for membership? There are actually quite a few. Some might hope to apply further in the future, while others have decided not to apply at all. 

List of Definitely European Countries That Aren't EU Members, Candidates, or Potential Candidates

 San Marino
 Vatican City 

*Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland have all applied for EU membership in the past, but later suspended or withdrawn their applications

**Russia is located partially in Europe and partially in Asia, but its historical center and the majority of its population are on the European side

List of Arguably European Countries That Aren't EU Members, Candidates, or Potential Candidates

There are some cases where it's not clear if a country is in Europe or not, since there's no official, agreed-upon definition of where Europe ends and Asia begins. Some of these countries, like Cyprus and Türkiye (Turkey), have already been approved as European by the EU (see above). But there are at least three more countries in this category that haven't so far applied or been approved to join the EU:


Kazakhstan is usually considered a Central Asian country, but part of it does lie on the western side of the Ural River, which is often considered the line between Europe and Asia.

Meanwhile, the countries of the South Caucasus region are often considered culturally European, but sit mostly on the Asian side of a commonly-used line used to divide Europe and Asia on maps (following the divide of the Caucasus Mountains). One of these countries, Georgia, was officially accepted as European by the EU last year, and is now listed as a "potential candidate" for EU membership (see above).

Fellow South Caucasus countries Armenia and Azerbaijan haven't applied for EU membership so far, but Georgia's acceptance suggests that their location, at least, wouldn't stop them from doing it. The self-proclaimed country of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) is also in the South Caucasus, but isn't accepted as independent by the EU.

These lists also leave out several other self-proclaimed countries, mentioned briefly in other parts of this article, that the EU doesn't consider to be countries at all: Northern Cyprus, Transnistria, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia).

Who Will Join or Leave Next?

The future is always in motion, but you can stay up to date on European Union membership by checking back frequently with Political Geography Now, or by signing up for email updates from the box on the right-hand side of this page. You can also view all European Union articles, or follow PolGeoNow on Twitter for even more news and facts!

Which Countries Use the Euro Currency? (Map of the Eurozone)
Map of the Schengen Area, Europe's Border-free Travel Zone
Britain's Exit from the European Union: What Actually Changed?

Article by Evan Centanni. Country flags and associated HTML code from Wikipedia (licensed under CC BY-SA).