The European Union began screening legislation in Turkey and Croatia on Thursday to check its compatibility with EU law in preparation for detailed membership talks.
The screening is expected to take about a year, as EU officials study the candidates' laws in 35 subjects ranging from antitrust to environment protection.
After screening is closed in each subject, or chapter, the detailed negotiations begin on adapting national laws to the union's vast body of regulations.
Those negotiations are expected to last at least 10 years for Turkey, while Croatia hopes to wrap up its membership talks by 2009.
Envoys from Turkey and Croatia attended the opening of screening in the first chapters science and research at EU headquarters. The process starts with the EU explaining its laws to the candidates before the focus turns on their legislation.
"Screening represents the start of the concrete, technical work of the negotiations," said Fabrizio Barbaso, head of the EU's enlargement department.
However, the process could have political consequences. On the basis of the screening, the European Commission could recommend setting conditions for the start of talks in the various chapters.
In Turkey's case, that could cause delays in the process if the Turks refuse to include Cyprus in rules governing the free movement of goods within the union, EU officials said. Turkey refuses to recognize the government of Cyprus, which joined the EU last year, backing instead a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state in the north of the island.
The EU formally opened membership talks with Turkey on Oct. 3, 42 years after it first sought closer ties with European bloc, reports the AP.