Wednesday, April 26, 2006

EU Preliminaries: Bucharest - Sofia

[courtesy of]

EU Says Romania, Bulgaria Made `Enormous Progress' for Entry
April 25
[reporter: Jonathan Stearns]

Romania and Bulgaria won praise from a senior European Union regulator for upgrading their justice systems, bolstering the likelihood that the two Balkan nations will join the EU on schedule in January 2007.

``Both of them under EU pressure have made enormous progress,'' Michael Leigh, head of the European Commission's enlargement department, said in an interview today in Brussels. ``We must give full credit where credit is due.''

The commission, the EU's executive arm, will recommend May 16 whether to delay the accession of Romania and Bulgaria -- or one of them -- until January 2008. Last October, the commission told both countries to strengthen their justice systems to avoid missing EU membership in 2007.

Romania and Bulgaria, with a combined population of 30 million, are counting on entry to help raise per-capita wealth from a third of the EU average. Their accession would expand the world's largest trading bloc to 27 nations and to the Black Sea.

Leigh stopped short of saying the commission would propose that the two ex-communist nations join on time, saying ``there are still a number of challenges to be met.'' The final decision rests with the EU's national governments.

Under EU rules, it would be harder to delay membership for Bulgaria than for northern neighbor Romania. EU governments can postpone Bulgaria's accession only by a unanimous decision and Romania's membership by a majority vote.

This reflects the fact that the EU was more concerned about Romania than Bulgaria when the two were negotiating membership. Romania and Bulgaria concluded their entry talks in 2004 and signed accession treaties in April 2005, before completing the process of aligning their legislation with European standards.

Safeguard Clauses

One scenario is that Bulgaria and Romania will join in January 2007 while being denied membership rights in areas where their standards haven't improved enough. Such ``safeguards'' can be decided by the commission on its own. [...]


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