EU-Romania relations [Archived]

Romania, along with Bulgaria, joined the EU on 1 January 2007, but the Commission insists on reforms to continue.

Background

Romania was the first Central and Eastern European country to have established official relations with the European Community. The bilateral agreement on Romania's inclusion in the EC's Generalised System of Preferences dates back to 1974, and another Agreement on Industrial Products was signed in 1980.

Romania established diplomatic ties with the European Union in 1990, and the following year a Trade and Co-operation Agreement was also signed. In 1995, the bilateral Europe Agreement entered into force.

Romania submitted its formal application for membership of the EU on 22 June 1995. However, the decision on the application came only at the Luxembourg European Council in December 1997. The Romania-EU intergovernmental conference meeting in Brussels on 15 February 2000 marked the official start of membership negotiations.

At the Copenhagen Summit in December 2002, EU leaders set 2007 as the target date for Romania to join the Union. "The 2007 entry goal is a realistic scenario," said former Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen in June 2004. "Romania is in a decisive phase - it may be hard but it's possible."

In June 2004, the EU decided to set a new "safeguard clause" for Romania (and Bulgaria), which can delay accession by one year if the countries fail to meet their targets. Such delay would require a unanimous decision by the Council.

Meanwhile, in May 2004, Romania became a full member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). 

On 17 December 2004, the Brussels Council took note of Romania's progress in its accession preparations and considered that the country "will be able to assume all the obligations of membership at the envisaged time of its accession", ie January 2007.

On 22 February 2005, the Commission passed a positive judgement on the scheduled April 2005 signing of Romania's Accession Treaty. 

In April 2005, the European Parliament gave its overwhelming support to Romania's EU bid. The vote was 497-93, with 71 abstentions. The second such report was issued on 16 May 2006.

On 25 April 2005 Romania signed its EU Accession Treaty, and on 25 October 2005 the Commission published its monitoring report on the country's level of preparedness.

In its final monitoring report on 26 September 2006, the Commission gave its green light for Romanian accession in 2007, but insisted on further reforms. If the requirements are not met, the Commission can invoke safeguard measures, which could lead to the suspension of funds.

Issues

The final monitoring report by the Commission indicates tougher conditions on Romania's entry in 2007. The country will be closely monitored on the remaining areas of concern. These include further efforts in the justice system and the fight against corruption and the integrated administrative control system for agriculture (IACS), Paying Agencies, the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and interconnectivity of tax systems.

If the requirements are not met, the Commission has the possibility to invoke safeguards. Under the Accession Treaty, there are three types of safeguard measures: economic, internal market and JHA safeguards, which can be invoked up to three years after accession. These could effect food export bans and cuts to EU funds, such as agricultural and structural funds, as foreseen in the report. In addition, there are transitional arrangements, such as the restriction of free movement of workers from new member states. Also the Commission can take remedial measures to ensure the functioning of EU policies. This concerns the areas of food and air safety, agricultural funds, the judiciary and the fight against corruption.

Positions

The President of the European People’s Party (EPP), Wilfried Martens, stated:  “This is a historic decision. After the accession in 2004 of ten countries from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area, the EU is now completing the reunification of the European continent”, President Martens stated.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists, said “Keeping our promise to allow those two countries to join, while setting conditions to achieve even greater efforts to combat corruption and organised crime is a good solution. It would be wrong to make Bulgaria or Romania the victims of enlargement fatigue, yet there can be no doubt that there are also some genuine concerns too about crime.”

Graham Watson, Group leader in the European Parliament for the Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) said: "Size matters. The EU needs as many countries as possible which share our values to help us tackle the serious challenges of our age."

Joost Lagendijk, of the Greens Group stated: "The Greens welcome the strict post-accession monitoring mechanism. The Commission should not hesitate to invoke the possible sanctions it proposes should Bulgaria or Romania fail to comply with the benchmarks in fields such as the fight against high-level corruption nor should it think twice about withholding agricultural funds if the control on the payments by the local agencies proves to be insufficient."

Annemie Neyts, President of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR), said that “the implementation of accompanying measures should not hide the fact that this is a major achievement for both countries and reason for celebration.” ELDR does not believe that EU enlargement should stop after the accession of Romania and Bulgaria. “The current accession negotiations will take years and will leave time for the adaptation of the EU institutions,” Annemie Neyts stated.

René van der Linden, President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) said: "It was important not to lose the political momentum for accession, even if close scrutiny of several outstanding issues is deemed necessary." But he added, that “PACE's Monitoring Committee remains vigilant about the implementation of reforms and respect for fundamental freedoms in all of our 46 member states."

Pierre Simon, President of Eurochambres, said: “Eurochambres has always welcomed the economic integration of candidate countries into the EU.  On the other hand, we praise the Commission’s decision not to hide the obstacles that still remain on the way to integration.  We need to keep preparing the business community and civil society at large to ensure a smooth transition and to avoid disillusion.”

UNICE President Ernest-Antoine Seillière said: “A Union of almost 500 million inhabitants makes it more urgent to review its institutional decision-making procedure.  Adequate solutions have to be found to give Europe the means to meet those challenges successfully.  This will be positive for the new countries as well as for the EU itself.”

ETUC General Secretary, John Monks, said “today marks another important step in European construction. Further work is needed to build the social Europe that we all aspire-to and the time is now to redouble our efforts to achieve it”.

Timeline

  • 26 September 2006: The Commission published its final monitoring report.
  • 1 January 2007: Romania joined the EU.
  • 19 May 2007: Romanian President Traian Basescu won a sweeping victory in an impeachment referendum organised by the rivalling government.
  • Second half of 2007: The Romanian government expects to hold European parliament elections, originally scheduled for 13 May. However a date has not been fixed until now.
  • June 2007: The Commission is to issue a report judging Romania's reform progress.

Further Reading

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