-  Sunday 25 February 2018

Romania Making 'Significant' Steps for 2007 EU Entry, Rehn Says

April 4 (Bloomberg) -- Romania is caught up with Bulgaria in the race to qualify for European Union membership, increasing the likelihood that both Balkan nations will join on schedule in January 2007, the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Rehn, who praised Romania for upgrading its justice system and fighting corruption, will next month recommends whether to delay entry by a year. The final decision rests with the EU's national governments.

``As regards the judiciary system, we can note significant progress in Romania,'' Rehn told the European Parliament's foreign- affairs committee in Strasbourg, France, late yesterday. He said Romania's government had taken ``immensely important'' steps to curb corruption.

Rehn will recommend on May 16 whether to delay the entry of Romania and Bulgaria -- or one of them -- until January 2008. Last October, he told both countries to improve their justice standards to avoid missing EU membership in 2007.

The two countries, 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.

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's preparedness for accession than Bulgaria's readiness when the two countries 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.

Harsher

Rehn yesterday was more critical of Bulgaria, saying its ``progress in the reform of the judiciary system has been limited'' and high-level corruption there ``needs to be addressed much more vigorously.'' EU Parliament members who attended the meeting said Rehn was harsher on Bulgaria than Romania.

``He put a little more emphasis on the troubles in Bulgaria,'' Camiel Eurlings, a Dutch member of the European People's Party, the Parliament's biggest group, told reporters. Joost Lagendijk, a member of the Greens, the fourth-biggest faction, said: ``He was less positive about Bulgaria than about Romania.''

Lagendijk said he opposed delaying the entry of either Romania or Bulgaria because of the risk this would set back their campaigns to improve regulatory standards.

``You would have no speeding up reforms in 2007,'' he said. ``You would lose a year.''

One scenario is that Bulgaria and Romania join the EU in January 2007 while being denied membership recognition in specific areas where their standards hadn't improved enough. Parliament members and Rehn also said Romania and Bulgaria could face extra EU ``monitoring'' after they join, regardless of the entry date.

Source
bloomberg




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