Views on BG | September 9, 2001, Sunday // 00:00

By Judy Dempsey, Financial Times
The European parliament pointed out last week the ongoing problems of corruption, a weak judicial system and continuing discrimination against minorities in almost all the candidate countries seeking to join the European Union by 2004.
If these trends continue, parliamentary deputies warned it could make it increasingly difficult to implement the acquis communitaire, the battery of EU legislation which aspiring countries must be ready to put into practice, at the latest by the end of 2002.
This is the timetable confirmed at last June's EU Gothenburg summit and originally set at the Nice summit in December last year which stated the hope of ending negotiations with "the most prepared" countries by then.
This should allow them to be ready, pending ratification by their own parliaments and member states, to participate in the June 2004 European Parliamentary elections.
The tone of the 12 reports - annual assessments of all the candidate members - praises the applicant countries for introducing a wide range of economic and political reforms, but at the same time are unusually blunt in describing shortfalls.
Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania were criticised for still not doing enough to combat the trafficking of women.
The civil services in several countries, from Latvia to Bulgaria, are subject to corruption or are either too small or too inexperienced to implement the acquis. The police and prison systems in Estonia and Poland need to be upgraded.
In his speech to parliament yesterday, Mr Verheugen said: "We have seen enormous shortfalls in the implementation and application of the acquis - continuing serious shortfalls in administrative capacity can become serious obstacles to accession."

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