FT: Sofia Awaits Last-Minute Decision On EU Entry

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | May 2, 2006, Tuesday // 00:00

Bulgaria could be made to wait until the last minute to find out whether it can join the European Union next year, amid serious concern in Brussels about its commitment to tackling organized crime and corruption, Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

According to the report EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn is planning to step up the pressure on Sofia to deliver results by delaying a final assessment of its membership bid until the autumn.

Rehn will deliver a report on Bulgaria and Romania on May 16 and is expected to give an upbeat assessment of both countries' preparations to join the club. Over the last weeks he has delivered strong warnings to Bulgaria that it needs to demonstrate its judicial and police reforms are being used to arrest and convict criminal bosses.

EU officials close to Rehn say one "compelling" option would be to make Bulgarian entry next year conditional on a second autumn assessment to prove that Sofia was taking a tough approach to organized crime.

Delaying a final decision could cause administrative problems, and some member states are likely to insist that Bulgaria joins in 2007 in any case, rather than being made to wait until 2008.

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