Bulgaria and Romania to enter European Union

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The European Commission has accepted Bulgaria and Romania as members of the EU from January 1, 2007 under what analysts call the strictest terms in recent history.

The Commission emphasizes that the new members will have to do a better job fighting organized crime but also fight political corruption, which has plagued both since the fall of the Soviet Union. Both governments have been criticized for not being tough enough on corruption, a hot political ticket in the duo.

The president of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, has called for a pause in enlargement of the EU afterwards in order to carry out institutional reform within the Union and solve the question of a constitution for the EU, which became less certain last year when French and Dutch voters rejected the proposal. An EU treaty currently mandates institutional changes within the Union before the number of members go beyond the 27 maximum, which the Union will reach by the accession of the two new members.

If the two countries will not be able to comply with the terms, they may face consequences, some of which are directed specifically at the accession process but most of which are general requirements that all members face if they fail to meet certain standards. Specific to the accession of Romania and Bulgaria is losing up to a quarter of farm payments unless they succeed in setting up an operational database for animals called IACS by April 2007.

Furthermore, corruption and organized crime have to be addressed. Some members of the Commission have said that allowing them to enter may actually help them tackle corruption more than it would be leaving them outside of the Union. Every six months, both countries will have to report on the progress to fight corruption.

Although both economies are growing rapidly, they will be the poorest countries within the EU with GDP per capita only at about one third of the EU average. As always, there are debates about whether that's good or bad in terms of accession, some arguing that it will result in mass migration of workforce to richer countries resulting in unemployment, others by that the richer countries of the Union benefit the Union by going for cheap labor within itself, as opposed to for example India or China.

Trade of pigs from the two countries will still be forbidden as farmers from both countries have had to deal with serious diseases in pigs.

All members of the EU have to ratify the entry of new members. France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium have yet to ratify the entry of the two countries, but analysts say that they're expected to do so soon, a refusal to do so being extremely unlikely.