EU stakeholders applaud Bulgaria-Romania accession

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The vast majority of European stakeholders agree with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, but opinions diverge on future enlargement.

The Commission stated on 26 September 2006 that Bulgaria and Romania can join the EU in 2007. The final monitoring report by the Commission indicates tougher conditions on their entry. Both countries will be closely monitored on the remaining areas of concern, such as the justice system, fight against corruption, organised crime and agriculture.

If the requirements are not met, the Commission can invoke safeguards. Under the Accession Treaty, there are three types of measures: economic, internal market and JHA, 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.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: “I do not think it would be wise to proceed with any enlargements before we have resolved the constitutional issue in Europe.” This may raise doubts about Turkey and the Western Balkans joining the EU soon. Nevertheless, Barroso conceded that he “would like Croatia to join as quickly as possible, if it fulfils all the criteria”.

Governments

President Georgi Parvanov said that Bulgaria has reached the same level of preparedness as the ten countries that joined the European Union in May 2004. He expressed the hope that there would not be any double standards, and that the same arrangements will be applied by Brussels with regards to Bulgaria as in the case of those ten countries. The president spoke again about possible safeguard clauses, saying that they would not be a motivating factor for stronger efforts on reform.

Romanian Prime Minister C?lin Popescu said: “Today, the Romanians have a reason for national pride! The European Commission has made today the final recommendation that Romania joins the EU on January 1st 2007. We accede to the European Union exactly in the same conditions as the other ten states that joined in 2004 and without safeguard clauses.”

European Parliament

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.”

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.

Council of Europe

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."

Industry Federations

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.”


 

The Accession Treaty, signed in April 2005, has been ratified by Bulgaria and Romania, as well as 21 member states so far.

The two countries will join as of 1 January 2007, unless the Council decides to postpone the accession until 2008. The Finnish presidency has promised that "the Council will abide by its agreements."

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