An announcement is expected to be made in the European Parliament in Strasbourg later today, that Romania and Bulgaria can join the European Union in four months time -in January 2007, rather than a year later. But both countries will be called on to carry out reforms – or risk missing out on millions of euros in aid.
The EU Commission president has called for a pause in enlargement after the two new states join. Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU must first carry out institutional reforms and decide what to do about its stalled constitution. “I don’t think it would be wise to proceed with any enlargements before we have resolved the constitutional issue in Europe,” he said.
With the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania, there will be 27 countries in the EU. Critics say the two countries are too poor and weak to cope with membership. Some member states are worried about a further flood of job seekers from the new states. Among the entry conditions, both countries will have to report on progress in fighting corruption and organised crime.
They’ll have to reform their judicial bodies and legal process. They also need to set up agencies to handle farm aid. If Commission considers their performance unsatisfactory, they could be deprived of benefits of full EU membership – including funding.