Rehn: Bulgaria, Romania May Still Join EU as Planned

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | April 3, 2006, Monday // 00:00

Bulgaria and Romania may still join the European Union (EU) as planned on January 1, 2007, but there is more work to be done and the decision is still to be taken, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in his preliminary assessment on the two countries' progress.

Rehn praised Romania's efforts in fight against corruption and pointed out that Bulgaria is lagging behind in that field.

As you can see for yourself the decision is still to be taken, Rehn told the MEPs.

The two countries' readiness could be postponed from 2007 if they fail to make the grade.

Behind closed doors in Strasbourg, Rehn gave MEPs in the foreign affairs committee a preliminary assessment of Bulgaria and Romania's readiness to join the EU at the beginning of next year.

The "final report", which will recommend that the two countries join in January 2007 or push the date back a year, would be made public May 16.

The final decision about when Bulgaria and Romania will join has to be taken by the EU 25 and that will probably happen when EU leaders meet in June.

Sofia and Bucharest signed agreements in 2004 to join the EU but their entry into the bloc can be postponed if they are judged to be too far behind in making reforms.

With the countdown on, Bulgaria amended its constitution last Wednesday to improve its judiciary system, which is frequently criticised for being to slow and inefficient.

"We are living critical days as regards Bulgaria's preparation for accession," Rehn has said.

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